The news wasn't all bad for the Baltimore Orioles tonight despite a sloppy 5-2 loss to the Kansas City Royals before 24,611 at Memorial Stadium.

Lee Lacy, making his debut with the Orioles following a preseason operation to repair ligaments in his right thumb, doubled (barely missing a home run) and played well in the field, and was praised by Manager Joe Altobelli.

But Lacy, who was activated after outfielder John Lowenstein was designated for reassignment earlier in the day, couldn't make up for eight walks issued by Orioles pitchers and Baltimore's indecisive infield play.

The Royals scored all the runs they needed in the sixth when Jorge Orta's double cleared the bases for a 3-0 lead. Two of the runners had been walked by starter Storm Davis (1-1).

Orta's hit eluded Eddie Murray down the first-base line. "They were playing me away and Davis was pitching me outside," said Orta, who came into the game hitting .259 but got three hits. "But the pitch was hard inside and I tried to concentrate with two strikes on me. There has been a little pressure on me because I haven't been hitting. When they walked (George) Brett, I went up trying to concentrate."

Starter Danny Jackson (2-1) and Dan Quisenberry combined to shut down Baltimore, which dropped from first place in the American League East, one-half game behind idle Toronto.

But the Orioles were cheered by the appearance of Lacy.

"It felt real good to be out there," said Lacy, who signed a four-year contract as a free agent in December. "I did a lot of things right at bat. I stayed back, kept my hands ready, waited for the ball, watched the ball come to me and saw it well when I swung. I've waited a long time for tonight's game."

Lacy, a 12-year veteran of the National League, wore a piece of tape over his right thumb when he played right field. At bat, he wore a small brace on his batting glove.

"I need to wear it for three weeks," he said. "I hope to play every day and get my A-plus game together pretty quickly."

Altobelli was satisfied with Lacy's throwing and his overall performance. "We're going to score a lot of runs in most games and he's going to be a big part of it," said Altobelli, who was ejected along with Gary Roenicke in the eighth inning by plate umpire Derwood Merrill for protesting a called third strike. "He looked surprisingly good. He got some throwing in yesterday and had no problem."

Lacy batted seventh behind Fred Lynn, who failed to hit a home run for the first time in four games.

Davis, making his first start since April 28, pitched well until the sixth inning. After he walked leadoff batter Onix Concepcion, Willie Wilson singled to right when Rich Dauer attempted to cover second on a hit-and-run, stopped and couldn't get back to reach Wilson's grounder. Brett was walked intentionally and Orta followed with his double.

In the Orioles' sixth, Roenicke (three hits) got his fourth homer of the season after Murray opened with a single. It was Roenicke's 14th career homer against the Royals.

Lacy followed with a double off the left field wall -- three feet higher and the game would have been tied. But after Fritz Connally singled to right with Lacy taking third, Rick Dempsey struck out and Dan Ford flied out to end the inning.

The Orioles never had another opportunity with ace reliever Quisenberry working the final three innings. He allowed only a leadoff double to Joe Nolan in the ninth.

Walks in the eighth and ninth innings led to two more runs for the Royals. Orta singled home Concepcion in the ninth after Wilson's single put two men on when Lenn Sakata was caught going the wrong direction on a hit-and-run.

Lowenstein, a 14-year veteran originally signed by the Cleveland Indians and waived by the Texas Rangers to the Orioles in November 1978, has a career batting average of .254. He was two for 26 for an .077 average this season.

Lowenstein's status was in doubt in spring training, but improved when Lacy injured his thumb.

Lowenstein's best season with the Orioles came in 1983 when he and Roenicke combined in left field to produce a .292 batting average with 35 homers and 131 RBI. During the Orioles' stretch run to the division title, Lowenstein had six homers and 22 RBI in 27 games.

The Orioles have 10 days to reassign Lowenstein's contract. At the end of that period, they are required to grant him his unconditional release. Lowenstein, 38, had played only once since April 28.

"I know it was a tough decision for them," he said. "It would have been better for me if it happened in spring training, but it was a business decision. With Lee coming back, something had to be done, and the kids are playing so well now. This is my home and I don't intend to play with any other team. I would like to remain in the game in some capacity."