Orioles' Hoiles may get to take a night off

April 22, 1994|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

LANDOVER — Ben McDonald will attempt to become the American League's first four-game winner tonight when the Orioles open a three-game series against the Seattle Mariners.

However, the big right-hander may not have his normal target, as catcher Chris Hoiles is likely to get the night off. Manager Johnny Oates has been looking for a spot to rest Hoiles, who has caught each of the Orioles' 14 games.

The numbers say tonight is as good a time as any, even though left-hander Dave Fleming is scheduled to pitch for the Mariners.

"I've got to get Jeff [Tackett] into a game and Chris is 1-for-17 against Fleming," said Oates. "So this looks like the right opportunity."

Although he has reached base via a hit or walk in all but two games, Hoiles is one of the Orioles who is struggling with the bat. After going 0-for-4 in last night's 11-8 loss to the California Angels, Hoiles is hitting .191 (9-for-47) with just one home run and four RBIs.

Hoiles hasn't been alone in his struggles at the plate, but offensive shortcomings only partially explain the Orioles' current two-game losing streak. The bullpen has been ravaged the past two nights, and Lee Smith is the only reliever pitching with effective consistency.

"When we picked a team to leave spring training, we didn't do it for only 14 games," said Oates. "We'll work it out. We're 8-6 and we're going to get better. I promise, we're going to get better."

At this point, the Orioles don't need McDonald to get better -- merely to maintain the status quo. He's off to the best start at the beginning of a season in his four-plus year career and a win tonight would enable him to match St. Louis right-hander Bob Tewksbury's 4-0 record, best in the majors.

McDonald has a 3-2 career record against Seattle, 1-1 last season.

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