Designated Hitter And Interleague Play

The largest obstacle to interleague play in 1997 remains the designated hitter. Former major league manager Tom Trebelhorn, now an instructor in the Orioles' system, has come up with a unique solution: Pitchers would be in the lineup for interleague games. But managers also could use a DH. The DH would be allowed to bat four times during a game, but never twice in the same inning. A manager could use his DH to pinch-hit for any player in the lineup, who would be permitted to remain in the game thereafter. "It's an interesting idea," Orioles General Manager Pat Gillick said. Henke Waits

Closer Tom Henke remains in semi-retirement, saying that he will pitch for the Cardinals if he pitches for anyone this year. But one general manager who was in contact with Henke's representative says he believes that Henke, a free agent, may pitch this summer, and perhaps not for St. Louis. "I think he's going to sit out until June, and then look at his options," he said. Slow Start

Some eyebrows were raised in the Marlins' camp when pitcher Livan Hernandez reported at least 10 pounds overweight, then couldn't complete his sprints or a session on an exercise bicycle during the club's opening workout last weekend. Team officials now seem to be leaning toward having the highly touted Cuban defector begin the season at Class AAA Charlotte rather than in the big leagues. Mussina Delivers

Chicago Bulls forward Scottie Pippen isn't the only professional athlete to appear on an episode of the television show "ER" recently. Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina appeared on two episodes as an extra after earning a place on the set for pitching batting practice to a TV executive last season in Anaheim, Calif. Meanwhile, when Mussina sorted through his mail at the opening of spring training, he came across an unopened invitation to a Halloween party at the private residence of Vice President Al Gore. Out, Frank Robinson Awaits Call

More than two months since being dismissed from the Baltimore Orioles' front office, Frank Robinson remains out of baseball.

The 60-year-old Hall of Famer says that, until now, he never had been out of the game for more than three weeks since his professional playing career began in 1953. But Robinson, after interviewing for the San Diego Padres' general manager job, remains on the sidelines. He has returned to his home in Los Angeles. He's spent time with his family and has watched Magic Johnson's comeback with the Lakers from his front-row seats at the Forum.

But he says he's not ready to leave baseball yet. "I feel I have something to offer to a team," Robinson said recently.

Padres chief executive officer Larry Lucchino, formerly president of the Orioles, promoted Kevin Towers from scouting director to general manager after having preliminary contract talks with Frank Wren, the assistant GM for the Florida Marlins. Lucchino and Robinson have had discussions about another front office job, but sources close to the situation say Lucchino is reluctant to give Robinson the power he's seeking. Robinson, who was dismissed as the Orioles' assistant GM in December, is the only victim of the purge of the club's decision-makers still out of work. Roland Hemond is an executive with the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks, and Phil Regan is the manager of the Albuquerque Dukes, the Dodgers' Class AAA affiliate. QUOTE

"I've never come in early before, so he should be extremely ecstatic. I don't know what's so dramatic about this." -- Jose Canseco, the Boston Red Sox' outfielder-designated hitter after missing the team's first workout. SPOTLIGHT

JASON SCHMIDT, ATLANTA BRAVES

The only real spring training intrigue for the Atlanta Braves is who will join Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Steve Avery in the defending World Series champions' season-opening starting rotation. Schmidt, 23, seems to have the early edge in the competition with Brad Woodall and Terrell Wade to replace the traded Kent Mercker as Atlanta's No. 5 starter. The

6-foot-5 right-hander has a 90 mph fastball and went 2-2 in nine appearances for the Braves last season. He was 8-6 with a 2.25 earned run average at Class AAA Richmond. SHOW-STOPPER

The early front-runner for the injury of the spring belongs to Angels left-hander Chuck Finley. He suffered from what the team called back spasms and missed a few workouts last week after falling asleep one night last weekend on top of his TV remote control. TWIN MIMBS

Michael Mimbs is scheduled to be the starting pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies when they host the Texas Rangers in a Grapefruit League game on March 3 in Clearwater, Fla. The Rangers' starter is scheduled to be his twin brother, Mark. LANDING AREA

Braves outfielder David Justice told reporters last week that the ball he hit for the decisive home run in Game 6 of last year's World Series is sitting in the bathroom of his home in Los Angeles. Justice called the ball's resting spot -- next to a tube of toothpaste -- merely "temporary." CAPTION: Former Orioles manager Frank Robinson, dismissed by club in December as assistant general manager, has remained on sidelines since interviewing for Padres' GM job.