Catcher Rick Dempsey received a standing ovation last night when he made his first home appearance in an Orioles uniform since 1986.
The crowd roared its approval when Dempsey started warming up Mike Mussina before the ninth inning. Chito Martinez had grounded out pinch-hitting for starting catcher Jeff Tackett in the eighth, which brought on Dempsey to catch the ninth.
"Pretty awesome," Dempsey said. "Something like that brings tears to your eyes and makes it tough to catch. It makes me feel bad I was gone five years."
Dempsey was with the Orioles for 10 1/2 years through 1986 and spent the next five with three other teams. He was activated after Chris Hoiles suffered a fractured right wrist last week and made his first appearance Thursday in Milwaukee, catching the eighth inning of a 1-0 loss.
Ask Tackett why home runs suddenly have become a part of his game in his ninth professional season, and the Orioles catcher has a succinct response.
"Why not?" said Tackett, who has been the regular catcher since Chris Hoiles suffered a fractured right wrist last week.
Consider the numbers: During his first eight seasons, Tackett hit 12 home runs in 2,057 at-bats. In 43 at-bats this year, he has four homers, including a game-tying, bases-empty homer in Friday night's 6-5 win over the Kansas City Royals.
"I'm not swinging for the fences, so it's not that," Tackett said. "A year ago, I reverted to my old stance from high school, more upright. Before that, people wanted to change my stance all the time."
Tackett, 26, hit his first major-league home run in his first at-bat of this season. Of his 12 hits, four are home runs. He is batting .279 overall.
All Jose Mesa needs to become a winner, the Orioles have been saying for years, is consistency. Orioles pitching coach Dick Bosman feels Mesa (3-7) is taking steps in that direction, and will present more evidence when he faces the Kansas City Royals today.
"There's some improvement -- slow -- but still progress," Bosman said. "He still needs to throw more sliders and change-ups for strikes, but at least he's not trying to throw his fastball through a brick wall.
"We're working on mechanical things and also working on the common-sense side. A guy with an arm like this doesn't come along that often, so you've got to keep working with him. He's had two elbow operations and still throws over 90 miles an hour."
On second thought
Will it be Bill Ripken at second base or Mark McLemore? Manager Johnny Oates says "50,000 things" enter into his decision before each game.
"Who's playing well, who's not, statistics, day or night game, who's pitching, things like that," Oates said. "No one things dictates."
Ripken, McLemore and another player who has dabbled at second base, Tim Hulett, have combined for 45 RBI. Orioles second basemen combined to drive in only 34 runs all last season.
Don't worry . . .
Oates is weary of questions about any "concern" he might have about Ben McDonald, who won his first five decisions but has slumped to 7-5.
McDonald gave up four runs in 3 1/3 innings Friday, but was not involved in the decision.
"Don't worry about him," Oates said. "I'm not concerned."
Said Tackett: "Ben is missing on his location a bit. He may be thinking too much and putting too much pressure on himself. He seems to be thinking that if he doesn't make a perfect pitch, they'll hit it out."
When the Royals lost to the Orioles in their first Baltimore appearance of 1992 on Friday, they became the 10th of 12 visiting teams to lose their first game at Oriole Park. . . . Orioles catchers have 18 home runs (Hoiles 14, Tackett four), the most by Orioles players at that position at this point since 1959, when Gus Triandos had 18 and Joe Ginsberg one. . . . Mike Devereaux and Brady Anderson have combined for 93 RBI. The only year two Orioles outfielders had more RBI at the same stage was 1966, when Frank Robinson (52) and Paul Blair (44) had combined for 96.