Baltimore Orioles catcher Lenny Webster, who asked to be traded as long ago as last winter, could be close to getting his wish. With Webster ready to come off the disabled list, club officials were hoping to trade him rather than part with new backup catcher Mike Figga.

Figga was claimed off waivers from the New York Yankees after a sprained ankle forced Webster onto the DL May 13. Now, with the ankle almost healed and Webster finishing a rehabilitation assignment at Class AAA Rochester, the Orioles have decided Figga will be their permanent backup catcher.

Figga was available because he is out of options and could not be returned to the minor leagues by the Yankees. Likewise, if the Orioles attempted to return him to the minors, he would have to clear waivers.

Since joining the Orioles on June 3, Figga has hit just .217, with no home runs and one RBI. But he is hitting .333 against left-handed pitching and has displayed impressive defensive skills.

The Orioles have a team-low 3.79 earned run average with Figga catching.

Hairston's Future

The Orioles are prepared to send rookie second baseman Jerry Hairston back to Rochester when Delino DeShields recovers from a hamstring injury. It's unclear when DeShields will return, but Manager Ray Miller said he wouldn't discount DeShields returning by Friday.

Hairston has impressed the Orioles by hitting .222 and playing well at second base. But team officials believe he will be well served by returning to Rochester and continuing to hone his skills.

DeShields was batting .274 when he went on the DL for the second time this season on June 20.

Clark Misses 5th Straight

First baseman Will Clark missed a fifth straight start tonight with a sore left knee. An MRI exam revealed no serious damage, and club officials said they doubted Clark would be placed on the DL for the second time this season. Clark, who was walking with a pronounced limp tonight, declined to discuss the injury.

Bird Signing

The Orioles signed left-handed pitcher Jose Cenate, the 34th overall pick in last month's draft. He was 13-1 with a 0.71 ERA at Jefferson High in Charlestown, W.Va. He had 179 strikeouts and 21 walks in 89 innings pitched. He will report to the Bluefield Orioles of the Appalachian (rookie) League on Wednesday.

The Orioles have signed 25 of their 53 draft choices.