SEATTLE, AUG. 13 -- The Baltimore Orioles' new first base solution -- although probably just temporary -- was to join the team here today after a hastily planned, cross-country airplane trip he was overjoyed to take. He is a familiar face, but not a familiar name on the lineup card.
Chris Hoiles has yo-yoed between Baltimore and Class AAA Rochester for two seasons, and most of his Orioles tenure has been marked by his sitting on the bench while Manager Frank Robinson bemoaned that there was no place in the lineup for him.
But things will be different this time, Robinson pledged upon the announcement of Hoiles's recall following the Orioles' 11-6 victory Sunday over the California Angels. "He's going to play," Robinson said. "He's going to play first base . . . a lot of first base."
Baltimore is severely lacking at that position, with usual starter Randy Milligan sidelined at least until week's end by a bruised left shoulder. Ron Kittle is hampered by a groin pull, Sam Horn is a bit shaky in the field, and Mickey Tettleton is only an emergency replacement.
So the spot will be handled at least part of the time by Hoiles, whose bat and versatility the Orioles have praised virtually nonstop since he was acquired from Detroit in 1988 as part of the Fred Lynn trade. Hoiles hit only .245 with the Red Wings last season, but he was batting .364 with 16 home runs and 49 RBI in 66 games with Rochester this season.
"He can handle major league pitching," Orioles General Manager Roland Hemond said. "We feel he'll give us a good right-handed bat to use against lefties."
The promise of playing time must be an unfamiliar sound to Hoiles. The Orioles kept him around earlier this season because he can play catcher and third base, but he never got any guarantees of how or when he'd be used. As it turned out, the answer was infrequently -- he played only 10 games, going four for 28 with one home run and five RBI, before being sent down a month ago.
It was a refrain similar to 1989, when Hoiles was recalled April 22, demoted May 7 and promoted again Sept. 9. Yet he got only nine at-bats during his big league time, doubling off Toronto's Mauro Gozzo in the season finale for his first major league hit.
Hoiles's recall creates a number of interesting sidelights. Mickey Weston was sent to Rochester to make room for him on the roster, leaving the Orioles with only nine pitchers; they plan to utilize a four-man starting rotation for the next few weeks.
And, because Hoiles plays catcher, it fuels speculation that the club plans to soon work out a trade of Tettleton, due to be a free agent at the end of the season. David Segui, a better fielding first baseman, is still at Rochester.
However, Hemond said Hoiles's arrival is unrelated to Tettleton's situation. He said Hoiles was chosen over Segui, a switch hitter, because he's right-handed.
Tough Act to Follow
Ben McDonald is the first pitcher since Fernando Valenzuela to win his first four major league starts, but his formidable efforts pale in comparison with those of Valenzuela in 1981. The screwballer won his initial eight starts for the Los Angeles Dodgers, including seven complete games, five shutouts, a 0.50 ERA and two game-winning hits. . . .
New York Yankees first baseman Kevin Maas needed only 110 at-bats to hit 13 major league home runs, faster than any other player. Horn reached 13 in 123 at-bats with the Boston Red Sox in 1987.