KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Rookie Luis Matos wasn't available to the Orioles yesterday because of a bruised right hand, leaving manager Mike Hargrove with a thin bench but relieved that another player had avoided the disabled list.
If only Matos could avoid getting hit.
After being nailed twice during an Aug. 6 game at Tampa Bay, Matos took a fastball below his right thumb in the ninth inning of Saturday's 12-11 victory over Kansas City. Matos actually began the rally when unable to avoid a fastball from Jerry Spradlin with one out. Delino DeShields' two-run single and a two-run homer by Albert Belle enabled the Orioles to overcome an 11-8 deficit.
Matos stayed in the game until the Royals came to bat, when Hargrove put DeShields in center field for the first time in his career. The move left the Orioles without a designated hitter and with reliever Ryan Kohlmeier in the cleanup spot if the game went extra innings.
DeShields made his first start in center yesterday because of injuries to Matos and Brady Anderson, who still can't play because of a sprained wrist.
X-rays on Matos' hand Saturday didn't reveal a break. He still had swelling yesterday, putting into question his status for tonight's game against the Chicago White Sox at Camden Yards.
"I don't know why they keep throwing inside," he said, adding that it wasn't an issue in the minors.
"I'm just going to keep icing it and maybe it'll be one or two days. No swinging or throwing."
The pitch from Spradlin actually hit Matos high on the left shoulder, leaving a red mark, before deflecting off his hand. He also was struck in two places with one pitch in the Aug. 6 game, taking a ball off his elbow and stomach.
Ponson to rest shoulder
Sidney Ponson, who will miss tomorrow's start against Chicago, described his right shoulder as feeling "tired" and seemed confident that rest would solve the problem.
"I'll just miss one start and come back," he said.
Ponson will be examined today by team orthopedist Dr. Michael Jacobs, who will be kept busy once the club returns to Baltimore.
"There might be a little inflammation in there," Ponson said. "I'm going to get it checked out just in case. I'm just going to rest it, go four or five days without throwing."
Ponson was scratched from his final start last season because of stiffness in the shoulder. "That was worse. This is just fatigue," he said.
"I'm just going to rest it for one start and go again."
Jason Johnson will take Ponson's turn after making three relief appearances since being recalled from Triple-A Rochester. He is 0-7 with a 6.53 ERA as a starter this season. His only win in nine decisions came on Aug. 4 when he tossed four perfect innings at Tampa Bay.
Johnson apparently would have rejoined the rotation after that outing, but Alan Mills' shoulder injury delayed the move. Hargrove indicated Saturday that Johnson probably would return to the bullpen after tomorrow's start, though Pat Rapp remains in jeopardy of losing his spot.
"I hope it's a permanent thing," Johnson said, "but at this point and time, I'm just going to take this one start, go out there and pitch and do the best I can. And whatever happens, happens. It's been like that all year."
Johnson was told Saturday about his assignment - nothing else. He has apparently been given no indication that more starts could follow.
"I haven't gotten any word from anybody. I wish I would get one, but it hasn't happened," he said.
"You never know. I could go throw a complete-game shutout and still be put back in the bullpen."
Reboulet happy in K.C.
Jeff Reboulet said he hasn't kept close watch on his former team, at least not until all the trades unfolded just before the waiver deadline. Then he became curious.
"I sort of knew that was coming," he said.
Reboulet had been the Orioles' utility infielder until getting traded to Kansas City during the winter meetings. Had he remained, he figured to be one of the first players out the door once the Orioles again settled into fourth place.
"I didn't want to get caught in all that," he said. "A lot of people want to know how I feel about leaving Baltimore and going to a team that doesn't have a chance to win. I didn't look at it like that. I looked at it as a growing, up-and-coming team. I knew that if the players didn't play well in Baltimore this year, they were going to get rid of some of them. And the guys they usually get rid of first are the fringe guys.
"That's why I left. I was one of the guys they could get rid of. I wasn't under a multi-year contract, and they wanted to try to get younger."
Reboulet started fast this season, but he batted .229 in 24 games while second baseman Carlos Febles was on the disabled list and entered yesterday in an 0-for-13 slump that lowered his average to .250.
He wasn't in the original lineup, but he entered the game in the fourth inning after Febles injured his right ankle. Reboulet went 1-for-3, including a run-scoring single in the fourth.