NEW YORK - The first clouds of dust stirred up by Orioles second baseman Jerry Hairston since going on the disabled list will come in Harrisburg, Pa., a long way from major league ground but suitable for regaining his footing.
Hairston will begin his injury rehab assignment tomorrow with the Double-A Bowie Baysox, most likely as the designated hitter while being eased back to second base.
Hairston expects to remain with Bowie until its season ends next Monday.
He might switch to Aberdeen, which plays until Sept. 3, for the extra at-bats before going on the Orioles' expanded roster.
The swings against live pitching will be Hairston's first since May 20, when he broke a bone in his right foot while stumbling across home plate during an at-bat in Anaheim. He had surgery three days later.
After rehabbing at a training facility in Tempe, Ariz., Hairston began taking batting practice and fielding ground balls with the Orioles.
"I would probably need 25 to 30 [at-bats]," Hairston said. "I'll get to see competitive pitching, which is good, but obviously it's not big league pitching."
The biggest apprehension for Hairston is going from first to third on a hit. "You can run all you want on your own," he said, "but it's nothing like being in a game."
At least he'll be playing again after a three-month layoff.
"It's big for me. Obviously I want to finish the season," he said. "Hopefully my rehab will go well and everything checks out and I'm cleared to play here."
Hairston hasn't competed in Harrisburg since 1998, when he batted .326 with Bowie.
"I didn't think I'd be back," he said.
The Orioles must decide how to use Hairston once he's activated.
"I don't expect, and I don't think he expects, to come back and play every day," manager Mike Hargrove said. "That's a little unrealistic for everybody. But he will play."
Hargrove indicated it was unlikely the team would start Hairston at second base, Brian Roberts at shortstop and Melvin Mora at third in the same lineup.
"I don't know that we'll go that far," he said. "We might, but I wouldn't put your money down on it."
Mora has been taking grounders at third, but he said it's done more at the invitation of third baseman Tony Batista, one of his closest friends on the team, who is in the final year of his contract.
A's eye Hentgen
With left-hander Mark Mulder likely out for the season, the Oakland Athletics could make a run at Orioles starter Pat Hentgen, according to major league sources.
The A's had a scout at Yankee Stadium on Friday when Hentgen threw 7 2/3 innings in a 4-3 victory.
In his past eight starts, Hentgen is 4-1 with a 3.11 ERA. His next appearance is scheduled for Wednesday in Oakland.
The A's are notoriously tight with their money, but Hentgen, 34, is a bargain with a $1.2 million contract this season. He can earn an additional $2.8 million through incentives based on innings pitched, but with five weeks left in the season, Oakland would have to pay only a fraction of that amount.
The Orioles hold a $4 million option on Hentgen's contract for next season, so they won't give him away for a low-level prospect. But he cleared waivers and could be moved before playoff rosters are set Sunday.
Besides Hentgen, the A's also might pursue Montreal's Livan Hernandez.
One inning at a time
Struggling closer Jorge Julio got through the eighth inning yesterday without allowing a run. He walked one batter with the Yankees leading 7-0.
"That's as un-pressure a situation as we can find," Hargrove said.
"We wanted him to throw his changeup and his slider and try to locate the ball and not worry so much about throwing the ball 101 mph."
The Orioles won't be the only team feeling the effects of a cross-country flight after tonight's game. Their next opponent, the Athletics, will be returning home from Toronto after playing at night.
Jason Johnson, the Orioles' union representative, contacted the Major League Baseball Players Association about having tonight's 7:05 starting time moved up, but the Yankees had the final word. It must have been "no."
"The association said they'd call me back if [Yankees owner] George Steinbrenner changed his mind," Johnson said. "Apparently, he didn't."
Johnson will fly to Oakland this afternoon, allowing him more time to rest before tomorrow's start.
No room to run
Before Roberts swiped second base yesterday, the Orioles had one steal in their past 14 games. They were caught three times.
"The opportunities haven't been there," Hargrove said, noting that Yankees starter Mike Mussina got the ball to home plate in 1.25 to 1.30 seconds during Saturday's game. "You're not going to steal a base with a guy that quick, and you've got [All-Star catcher] Jorge Posada.
"It's really been opportunity more than anything."
Those were especially scarce yesterday with the Orioles held to four hits.
Around the horn
Right fielder Jay Gibbons left the game in the seventh inning after tweaking his hamstring, which has bothered him for about five days. "It's fine," he said. "I think [Hargrove] just wanted to give me a breather." ... The Gulf Coast League Orioles completed their season with a 32-28 record and 1 1/2 games out of first place. They went 24-11 over their last 35 games.