Although the Baltimore Orioles' scheduled game with Toronto was postponed today because of cold winds and rain, third baseman Floyd Rayford took batting practice for the first time in five days and said his left thumb feels so good he hopes to play by Monday.
He will hit again Thursday before the Orioles and Blue Jays play a 1:35 p.m. doubleheader, and if the thumb feels as good then as it did today, he'll play two games with Class AAA Rochester this weekend, then join the Orioles Monday in Cleveland.
"It has gotten so much better just in the last few days," he said. "It's still a little sore, but that's to be expected. It's nothing I can't live with."
He chipped a bone in the thumb March 28 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and doctors said he could play in only a couple of days. But when he did play, the thumb got worse.
Manager Earl Weaver had hoped to have him ready today because Toronto was to have pitched left-hander Jimmy Key, against whom Rayford has gone five for seven with two homers. But last Friday, after a futile round of batting practice in Texas, Weaver told Rayford to take four more days off.
The time was especially frustrating for Rayford because he was coming off the best year of his career, having led the Orioles with a .306 batting average, and he was going to be in a starting lineup on opening day for the first time.
Orioles General Manager Hank Peters telephoned Weaver this morning and suggested the rehabilitation assignment to Rochester, an idea Rayford initially rejected.
"If I have to, I will," he said. "If that's the quickest way to get back in the lineup, I'll do it. It's not like it's anything new. I've been there so many times, they've got a monument to me at the stadium." He has spent parts of five seasons at Rochester.
Weaver said: "I hadn't thought of it until Hank mentioned it, but it's so logical, you have to do it. We want him to go down there and find out if he's really ready to play."
If everything goes well Saturday and Sunday in Rochester, he will fly to Cleveland Monday and play his first game that night. At that time, the Orioles will have to make a roster move, and the club appears to be leaning toward sending reliever Brad Havens to Rochester.
The Orioles opened the season with 10 pitchers because Weaver and Peters wanted to find out if the starting pitching was going to improve. It has. The Orioles lead the league with a 2.48 ERA, and since opening day only one starter has pitched fewer than 7 1/3 innings.
Weaver will start left-hander Mike Flanagan against Key in Thursday's first game and right-hander Ken Dixon against right-hander Jim Clancy in the second game. The first game will be televised by WDCA-TV-20 and WMAR-TV-2.