After making seven consecutive starts that raised his total to 56, catcher Brook Fordyce was rested on the Orioles' second day game of the week.
One more start, and he'll exceed last year's total.
Fordyce has started 13 of 17 games this month, with three of the assignments going to Geronimo Gil, who was optioned to Triple-A Ottawa on Sunday. Robert Machado started yesterday after replacing Gil on the roster.
So does this make Fordyce the undisputed regular behind the plate?
"I don't necessarily agree with that," Fordyce said. "The only reason is, if I don't do my job, it's going to change. Right now, I'm doing my job offensively and, most importantly, working with these pitchers. But God forbid that turned and I wasn't doing my job or I started slacking, it could change in a heartbeat.
"You've got to produce. You can't take anything for granted."
Fordyce should know. He batted .322 in 53 games after coming to the Orioles in a 2000 trade with the Chicago White Sox, who received catcher Charles Johnson in the six-player exchange, and left spring training the next year with the starting job. But he hit .209 in 2001, the Orioles acquired Gil at the non-waiver trade deadline and Fordyce gradually became a reserve.
Though Hargrove indicated in March he wanted Fordyce to play more, the nine-year veteran figured to back up Gil. But Hargrove began leaning more heavily on Fordyce because of his work ethic - Gil has frustrated some coaches with his reluctance to participate in extra drills - and the confidence he instills in the pitching staff.
It also hasn't hurt that Fordyce is batting .266, compared with .231 last season. He has driven in only nine runs, one more than last year, but Hargrove is willing to accept lower production at the bottom of the order if other intangibles come with it.
The rotation turned in 10 straight quality starts before yesterday, and pitcher Jason Johnson raved about Fordyce after Sunday's victory.
"You kind of get that sense like, `Why change anything? Just keep that going until something happens,'" Fordyce said. "If it didn't go that way, it probably would have changed up for a couple days, just play the hot hand. But I never like seeing anybody get sent down. Geronimo is a great guy. He's got a future."
The present continues to favor Fordyce, even though he lacks Gil's arm strength and power and is six years older.
The Orioles hold an option on Fordyce's contract for 2004, but they aren't willing to pay him $4 million. He could return at a drastically reduced rate, perhaps as a backup again or in a platoon role.
Ivan Rodriguez, who spurned the Orioles last winter and accepted a one-year, $11 million contract with Florida, and the Atlanta Braves' Javy Lopez will be free agents after the season. But Lopez could be moved to first base.
"I play hard," Fordyce said. "I want to be here."
Focus pays for Machado
Though his ultimate goal was to get his body to the majors, Machado didn't let his mind wander there.
Focused on his Triple-A duties, Machado batted .335 with eight homers and 38 RBIs in 59 games.
"I was doing what I had to do down there," he said. "You always know that something could happen, that you're one pitch away if somebody gets injured, but I wasn't thinking about being here."
Yesterday, Machado walked in the fourth and scored on Luis Matos' sacrifice fly and hit his first homer in the eighth.
Being emotional about his promotion to the Orioles didn't cause the redness in Eric DuBose's eyes.
After getting 90 minutes of sleep, DuBose took a cab at 4 a.m. to the airport in Ottawa. He arrived at Camden Yards about seven hours later and greeted a few teammates - exhausted but also grateful for another chance to pitch in the majors.
The Orioles intend to use him out of the bullpen, but he eventually could start if a spot opens.
"Start, relief, it doesn't matter," he said. "This is where you want to be."
Around the horn
The Orioles still haven't received a counterproposal to their three-year, $15 million offer to pitcher Sidney Ponson, which included a club option for 2007 and numerous incentives. ... Every Orioles starter had a hit. The first five batters were 10-for-21 with 10 RBIs and eight runs scored.