Rain wins waiting game with O's-Indians

May 08, 1994|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

In the age of almost automatic sellouts at Camden Yards, it takes almost as much time to postpone a game as it does to play one.

That new fact of baseball life was demonstrated again yesterday, when the Orioles tried to out-wait persistent rain before calling off their game against the Cleveland Indians.

It wasn't until 2 1/2 hours after the scheduled 1:35 start that the decision was made. Within an hour the long-awaited break in the weather arrived, too late to salvage a long and unproductive afternoon at the ballpark. Most would-be spectators had departed before the postponement was announced.

No makeup date for yesterday's game was announced, but it probably will come in the form of a doubleheader when the Indians make their second trip to Baltimore, July 26-28. Both teams are off on July 25, but it is unlikely a game will be played then. That would be used as a possible makeup date for games scheduled the day before -- and the Orioles will be returning from a West Coast trip.

Yesterday's rainout also forced a second postponement: Right-hander Mike Oquist's first major-league start will be pushed back at least until May 21 and possibly indefinitely. Arthur Rhodes will be eligible to come off the disabled list by then and could be activated in time to face the New York Yankees.

For Orioles manager Johnny Oates, the decision to skip Oquist's turn in the rotation was easy. Ben McDonald (6-0, 2.33) is the scheduled starter for this afternoon's game, and there is no desire to push him off schedule.

"We'll stay the way we had planned [the pitching rotation]," Oates said. "As we get closer to May 21, we'll announce a starter -- but that's still a long way away."

Oates, however, did say that Rhodes could return to face the Yankees. "That's a possibility," he said, "but we'll just wait and see what happens. The way the schedule is set up, we only need a fifth starter twice [May 21 and 31] between now and June 14."

That might not be the best arrangement for Rhodes, a talented but erratic left-hander. He will probably make a couple of rehabilitation starts in the minor leagues before his return -- and it's not out of the question that the Orioles may prefer to have him work on a regular schedule before rejoining the rotation on a permanent basis.

In the meantime, McDonald, Mike Mussina, Sid Fernandez and Jamie Moyer will shoulder the bulk of the starting assignments. Fernandez, Moyer and Mussina will pitch the three-game series starting tomorrow at Camden Yards against the two-time

defending World Series champion Toronto Blue Jays. That series will wrap up an abbreviated five-game homestand for the Orioles, who will be trying to salvage a two-game split with the Indians after losing a 4-2 decision in 10 innings Friday night.

Today, McDonald will not be matched against veteran right-hander Jack Morris (1-3, 7.39) as had been planned. Instead, Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove will keep yesterday's scheduled starter, Mark Clark (2-0, 4.22), in his regular rotation.

The day off did provide a needed a break for three Orioles who were not listed in yesterday's starting lineup. Right fielder Jeffrey Hammonds, who has missed two games in the aftermath of a slight concussion suffered a week ago, and third baseman Chris Sabo, who has been bothered by back spasms, may play today.

Catcher Chris Hoiles, who had an assortment of bruises after a tough game behind the plate Friday, is almost certain to return. "Chris should be OK," Oates said. "He was going to get a day off after a night game, and he was sore all over.

"Hammonds and Sabo said they felt good [yesterday], but I wanted to give both of them an extra day. Both could be ready to play, but I'll wait until I get to the park and talk to them before making a decision."

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