NEW YORK -- The Orioles' bench was lifeless the first two weeks of the season, and manager Phil Regan suspected that the reason was anxiety over roster cuts that came down May 15.
Once those moves were made last week, Regan said, the team seemed much more alive.
But there are anxious feelings again, because Andy Van Slyke is due to come off the disabled list Friday, and nobody is quite sure how the Orioles will make room for him.
"It's hard to get a read on things," said one player. "I don't think anybody has a clue."
Two weeks ago, pitcher Mike Oquist was the most likely to be cut. But he's pitched well and endeared himself to Regan and pitching coach Mike Flanagan by throwing strikes, so it likely will be another player.
* Left-hander Brad Pennington went two weeks without pitching in a game, and there doesn't seem to be a clear-cut role for him. But general manager Roland Hemond spoke with Pennington's agent Saturday and had nice things to say following the pitcher's meeting with Regan.
Pennington is out of options and must be passed through waivers for the Orioles to keep him, so if they do move him, it will be via trade. But as one major-league general manager said last week, "I wouldn't want to be the guy who traded a left-hander who throws in the mid-90s."
* Center fielder Damon Buford is hitting .043 and could be sent to the minors, but the Orioles could lose him emotionally if they do this.
A trade is a possibility: Whereas three weeks ago they showed no interest in dealing him, the Orioles have been more open to the idea recently. The X-factor here is that the Orioles weren't happy with published comments attributed to Buford's agents last week, feeling they made the team look bad.
* Sherman Obando was a lock to stick with the club because Regan liked his power, but he has just one extra-base hit and looked terrible in the outfield on Saturday.
* Second baseman Manny Alexander is hitting .172 and already has four errors. But like Pennington, he's out of options and must be kept on the major-league roster or placed on waivers.
* If the Orioles were desperate, they could send Arthur Rhodes to the minor leagues to pitch and work out his many kinks. This could serve the purpose of creating a roster spot, but the Orioles would run the risk of alienating Rhodes, who Regan thinks could be a big-time pitcher.
Run, run, run
Opponents are running virtually unencumbered against the Orioles. Before Pat Kelly was thrown out yesterday, opposing base runners had been successful in 10 straight steal attempts and 18 of their last 20.
But Regan agreed that the blame lays primarily with the pitching staff. "A lot of times the catchers haven't even thrown the ball," Regan said, "because they didn't have a chance."
All told, opposing runners have been successful on 22 of 27 attempts, including four for four against Rhodes, four for five against Sid Fernandez, and three for three against Kevin Brown and Alan Mills.
Around the horn
The Orioles need hitting, but Regan said he wouldn't be interested in acquiring Kevin Mitchell, who is expected to be cut from his team in Japan soon. . . . Van Slyke can't come off the disabled list until Friday, but he says he'll be ready before then. Being out is costing him money, because his contract includes a liberal games-played clause. . . . When Wade Boggs doubled in the fifth, he ended a hitless string of 14 at-bats.