After a week of rehabilitation, Chris Hoiles could be back in the lineup tonight, when the Orioles open a nine-game home stand against the Seattle Mariners.
Manager John Oates said over the weekend that he would wait until he personally had seen Hoiles throw before making a decision. But last night Oates indicated that the catcher's return could be in time for tonight's game.
Hoiles, who suffered a broken right wrist when hit by a pitch from the Yankees' Tim Leary June 20, caught six innings as Hagerstown beat Reading, 5-4, last night. It was his fourth appearance behind the plate in seven games (21 innings total) for the Orioles' Class AA farm club. Hoiles went 1-for-3, giving him a .458 batting average (11-for-24 with one home run and five runs batted in) for the week he spent with the Suns.
"We'll see what the reports are, and then make a decision," said Oates. If the reports are as positive as his numbers at Hagerstown, Oates said Hoiles could be activated immediately.
In the meantime, the Orioles still are uncertain whether Joe Orsulak will go on the disabled list. The outfielder jammed his left thumb on the turf in Kansas City Saturday night and there was still swelling yesterday when Orsulak was examined by Dr. Hugh Baugher, the team's hand specialist.
"He could be out anywhere from four to 15 days," said Oates. "They [the doctors] wanted to wait another day and see if the swelling goes down any."
Before the week is over, the Orioles will have to make three personnel decisions. Besides Hoiles and Orsulak, they also have to determine what they're going to do with pitcher Mark Williamson.
The right-hander, who had arthroscopic elbow surgery, has been out since the second week of the season. His rehabilitation assignment to the minor leagues ends at midnight tomorrow, at which time the Orioles have to make a move.
They can either activate Williamson, attempt to outright him to Rochester until the rosters expand to 40 Sept. 1 (an assignment he would have to approve), or they can recall him and keep him on the disabled list. The latter option seems most likely at this point, though Williamson could dictate a move by forcing the issue if he is deemed completely recovered.
While the front office contemplates the off-field activity, the Orioles have to worry about making some gains on the field during this home stand. The division-leading Toronto Blue Jays will be on the road (Milwaukee, Minnesota and Chicago) while the Orioles are hosting Seattle, Oakland and California.
"These first three games are especially important," said Oates. "The teams closest to us [the first-place Blue Jays and third-place Brewers] are playing each other, so if we win, we have to gain on one of them. We have to find a way to win some games here.
Since winning 10 of their first 11 in their new park, the Orioles have gone only 22-23 at Camden Yards.