TORONTO - When the Orioles re-signed B.J. Surhoff the week before spring training, more than a few critics questioned the decision on talk radio and the Internet chat boards.
The critics wondered if Surhoff, 38, could still hit, and they wondered why the Orioles needed him, with Larry Bigbie, 25, waiting in the wings.
Three months into the season, the Orioles have to feel vindicated.
Bigbie is working his way back from a shoulder injury. Surhoff, who had a pinch hit last night, is batting .336.
"I knew I could still hit, I knew I could still play, and I knew I was still better than a lot of guys they have," Surhoff said. "I still feel very confident when I go out and play. If you don't play with self-confidence, you're not going to be very good."
Surhoff went hitless in his first 10 at-bats this season, and he was hitting .191 on April 18. He was on the disabled list with a strained right hamstring for 25 days in May. Since coming off the DL, he's batting .426.
The success shouldn't come as a huge surprise. Surhoff entered the season as a career .281 hitter. He was batting .293 on April 27, 2002, when he suffered a season-ending knee injury with the Atlanta Braves.
Going back through his career, this isn't the first time he's hit this well over the first half of the season. He was batting .332 at the All-Star break in 1999 and .372 at the break in 1995.
"I still have a lot of improvements to make," Surhoff said. "I'm not satisfied. My power numbers are down, home runs  and doubles . I'm getting on base, but I'd still like to see my power numbers go up."
Orioles manager Mike Hargrove doesn't sound the least bit concerned.
"It's not like he's massaging the ball," he said. "He's swinging the bat well, and those things will come. The ball's jumping off his bat."
Loewen to debut Sunday
Adam Loewen, the Orioles' first-round pick in the 2002 draft, is scheduled to make his professional debut on Sunday at short-season Single-A Aberdeen. He has been throwing at the Orioles' extended spring training facility in Sarasota, Fla.
Orioles minor-league director Doc Rodgers said Loewen will be brought along slowly at first. He's only expected to pitch one inning in his debut against Staten Island.
Red Wings salute Ripken
Cal Ripken Jr. will be inducted into the Rochester Red Wings' Hall of Fame on Aug. 29.
Ripken, who ended his major league career in October 2001, spent one season in Rochester in 1981. He hit .288 with 23 homers and 75 RBIs and was named the International League's Rookie of the Year.
One Triple-A All-Star
The Orioles will have just one representative at the Triple-A All-Star Game, July 15 in Memphis: left-handed pitcher Rigo Beltran, who is 4-4 for Ottawa with a 2.59 ERA.
Bigbie, Brian Roberts, Luis Matos and Carlos Mendez were all All-Star candidates at Ottawa before getting promoted to the big league club. Another candidate, Darnell McDonald, is injured.
Around the horn
Brook Fordyce has started seven of the past eight games at catcher for the Orioles, but Hargrove said, "I wouldn't read too much into it." Geronimo Gil isn't injured. He is hitting .243, and Fordyce is at .264 after going 1-for-3 last night. ... The Orioles' three-game series against Philadelphia, beginning tonight at Camden Yards, is not sold out. About 5,000 tickets remain for tonight's game, 3,000 for tomorrow's game and 6,000 for Sunday's game. ... The Blue Jays activated third baseman Eric Hinske from the disabled list, sending former Oriole Howie Clark back to Triple-A Syracuse. Hinske, last year's Rookie of the Year, missed a month after breaking the hamate bone in his right hand.
The Orioles will commemorate the 20th anniversary of their 1983 World Series title during this weekend's series with the Phillies. Events:
Tomorrow: Home Run Derby between Eddie Murray and Mike Schmidt, 6:40 p.m. Orioles season-ticket holders who use their early entrance privileges will have the opportunity to get autographs from the 1983 players who are on the field and throughout the concourse during pre-game batting practice.
Sunday: Old-timers game between 1983 Orioles and Phillies, 12:30 p.m. Gates will open at 11 a.m. for batting practice. Among the Orioles scheduled to play are Mike Boddicker, Rich Dauer, Storm Davis, Rick Dempsey, Mike Flanagan, Dan Ford, Elrod Hendricks, Tippy Martinez, Scott McGregor, Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer and Ken Singleton.