NEW YORK -- When he's been asked what historical figure he'd like to have a conversation with, Corey Patterson's answer has always been Baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson.
So the Orioles center fielder was honored when he was asked this week to wear Robinson's No. 42 on April 15, the day Major League Baseball will celebrate the 60th anniversary of Robinson's breaking baseball's color barrier.
"It means a great deal to me because obviously, if it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be in this locker room right now," Patterson said. "In all the other sports, who knows if all the African-Americans would be playing as well? For the struggles he had to go through, I can only imagine. ... Baseball's a very mental game, and not only did he have to worry about playing the game, but also the stuff he had to deal with off the field. I'd want to see how he dealt with that, and how he stayed strong mentally."
The plan started Tuesday when Cincinnati Reds outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. got permission from commissioner Bud Selig to wear the retired number of the Brooklyn Dodgers great. Major League Baseball then asked a player on each team to wear Robinson's number on the 60th anniversary of Robinson's major league debut.
The anniversary comes during a time when the declining number of African-American players in major league baseball has been a widely discussed topic.
"It would be nice to see more African-Americans in the game," Patterson said. "I think a lot of African-Americans grew up wanting to play basketball and football. I think that MLB needs to do a better job of scouting African-Americans in the city, instead of putting all the money into the Latin places. ... But it has to be a two-way street. As African-Americans, we have to be willing to accept the game."
No word on Hernandez
The Orioles had no news on the condition of catcher Ramon Hernandez, who hasn't played this season due to a left oblique strain. Hernandez still hasn't taken batting practice, and Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo acknowledged that if his catcher is unable to do so this weekend, he'll likely head to the disabled list.
"It's not been an ideal situation up to this point," Perlozzo said. "He probably could go out there. I am sure he could go in the game tonight and pinch hit. I feel that comfortable, but I think [the pain] is still there. We're just being awfully cautious."
Asked if he thinks he's doubtful for the Yankees series, Hernandez said: "I don't know really. I guess it's going to be about how I feel. Right now, I just jogged and ran and I don't feel anything. Before I was running I felt it a little bit, but now I don't. Definitely it's getting a lot better."
Jay Payton, who hasn't played this season because of a strained left hamstring, took live batting practice in the cage before the game. He's hoping to start running this weekend. He's eligible to return from the disabled list Wednesday, but at this point, he's unsure he'll be ready to play by then.
"I would just like to be close," Payton said. "I'm not going to try to come off three or four days early just because the 11th is the day I can come off. I'm going to come off when I feel good and I'm ready to play and I feel like I don't have to worry about it the rest of the year."
High praise for Loewen
New York Yankees bench coach Don Mattingly has seen his share of young pitchers come and go, but he came away impressed last year after what he saw from Orioles left-hander Adam Loewen, who was on the mound for the Orioles last night.
"He has good stuff, this kid," Mattingly said Wednesday. "He's the kind of guy that has a chance to be a real good pitcher. They have a lot of guys like that over there."
Loewen faced the Yankees four times last season, going 2-1 with a 2.63 ERA.
"He pitched good against us more than once," Mattingly said. "He's going to be a handful."
Around the horn
Orioles bench coach Tom Trebelhorn left the team and returned home to Arizona to be with his ailing wife. Bullpen coach Dave Trembley will serve as bench coach while he is gone. ... In his first start for Triple-A Norfolk last night, Orioles top pitching prospect Hayden Penn allowed two runs on two hits and two walks while striking out six in five innings.