CHICAGO, JULY 10 -- The Baltimore Orioles will return from the all-star break with four pitchers in their starting rotation, three regulars set to return from the disabled list, a two-game winning streak and a lockout makeup game against the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday night at Memorial Stadium.

General Manager Roland Hemond is viewing it as a countdown to success.

"We're encouraged at how things are going," he said today before baseball's 61st All-Star Game. "I feel like we're getting hot and we'll get hotter."

Hemond, team president Larry Lucchino, assistant general manager Doug Melvin and manager Frank Robinson took advantage of the all-star break by meeting here for three hours. They reviewed the Orioles' performance during the first half of the season, got caught up on developments in the minor league system and made plans for the second half.

The Orioles entered the break with a 37-45 record that put them in fifth place in the AL East, nine games out of first. But Hemond said their victories Saturday and Sunday over the Chicago White Sox, which knocked Chicago out of first place in the West, were "an indication that things are falling into place a lot better."

Although outfielders Brady Anderson and Phil Bradley and reliever Joe Price will not be activated for Wednesday's game, Hemond said all are "progressing well."

Anderson (sprained ankle) has batted .412 in four games on rehabilitation assignment with Class AA Hagerstown. Price (lower back strain) said Sunday he expected to be ready on Thursday, when he is eligible to come off the disabled list. Bradley (wrist surgery) has been swinging a bat.

"We don't want to over rush them," Hemond said, "but it's good to know that three of your major league performers are soon to get back. . . . They will help balance the club better and add depth. Some of those ingredients have been missing most of the year. There's always been somebody missing from the cast. It now appears we could have our best cast out there."

Part of that involves the four-man rotation, which so far includes only Bob Milacki and Pete Harnisch. Milacki will start Wednesday night, Harnisch on Thursday night in the first of four games against the Minnesota Twins. Both will be pitching on six days' rest.

"I am looking at the first eight games, then we'll reevaluate," said Robinson, who added that he would continue with an 11-man pitching staff for the time being and wants to give reliever Gregg Olson more work.

Robinson said he would confer with pitching coach Al Jackson and "turn some things around in my head" before deciding on the other two starters.

Right-hander Dave Johnson, who started Sunday, would seem to be assured of a spot in the rotation, since he leads the club with eight victories and was the most consistent starter the first half.

Robinson and Hemond seemed to indicate that right-handers Ben McDonald and Curt Schilling would remain in the bullpen. Hemond said the two had given the club an "added dimension" since their recent call-ups from Class AAA Rochester. Robinson said McDonald has "shown he can be effective out there" and talked about how a potential young starter could benefit from beginning his major league career as a reliever.

That would leave left-hander Jeff Ballard and right-hander John Mitchell in contention for the last spot in the rotation. Mitchell was used as a reliever in April before being sent to Rochester, but he has been used exclusively as a starter since being recalled June 15. He has pitched well in three of his last four starts.

Ballard was moved from the starting rotation to the bullpen for the first half's final week because of an off day, because he is 1-9 and because Robinson wanted to have another lefty to go with Kevin Hickey while Price was injured. In four relief appearances, Ballard pitched 3 2/3 innings and allowed one hit and no runs to lower his team-worst earned run average to 5.06. But when Ballard was sent to the bullpen, he said Robinson had told him it was not a demotion.

"Maybe guys like Harnisch and Milacki are better off in a four-man rotation," Robinson said. "We'll see. But it's nice to have that extra arm down in the bullpen. You can maneuver much more. We'll stay with it as long the four people we put out there can handle it."

Milacki, Johnson and Mitchell have each started once this season on three days' rest. They were a combined 2-0 with seven runs and 21 hits allowed in 18 2/3 innings (3.37 ERA). During the latter portion of last season, Milacki, Johnson, Harnisch and Ballard totaled 28 starts on three days' rest or less. They were 14-7 with a 2.87 ERA and an average of more than 6 2/3 innings per start.

"I probably throw better in a four-man rotation than a five-man rotation," Milacki said today in a telephone interview. "I'm throwing every other day {between starting and pitching on the sidelines}, so it keeps me in a rhythm."

As to Olson, Robinson has been using him only when the game is in doubt or when Olson has not pitched in three days or more.

"I want to keep him sharper," Robinson said. "But if we are winning more ballgames in the second half, he'll get more work."