Baltimore Orioles pitcher Ricky Bones looked at his two scheduled fill-in starts as an audition for the starting rotation. But after Bones was removed in the fourth inning of today's loss, it seems doubtful that Bones won the job and questionable whether he was actually given a chance.

Manager Ray Miller said he pulled Bones after just 54 pitches because Bones was on a limited pitch count of "60 or 70 pitches" and was starting to elevate his pitches. However, Bones, who clearly was unhappy with the early hook, said he was unaware of the pitch limit.

"I thought I threw the ball pretty well," said Bones, who got no-decision. "I was hitting my spots and following my game plan."

Because of upcoming off-days, the Orioles won't need a fifth starter again until Aug. 20, so for the short-term Bones will be returned to the bullpen. Miller said the team will make a decision on a fifth starter closer to Aug. 20.

Bones stared incredulously, then stood with his arms folded as Miller approached to yank him after an RBI single by Juan Encarnacion. Bones appeared to plead to stay in the game. But since it was the second visit to the mound that inning (pitching coach Bruce Kison already had made a visit), there was no room for debate.

"I don't expect anybody to be happy about coming out," Miller said. "But I thought he was losing velocity and getting the ball up."

Bones threw first-pitch strikes to his first seven batters, retiring them all. But when he began falling behind, he ran into trouble. Deivi Cruz homered in the third on a 1-0 hanging slider. And in the fourth, Brad Ausmus singled on a 3-1 pitch, then Dean Palmer walked on four pitches. Encarnacion's hit was on a 1-0 slider.

Ripken Makes Trip

Miller said he is hopeful third baseman Cal Ripken (back) can come off the disabled list on Aug. 16, the day he is eligible to be activated. Ripken left with the team for the trip to Tampa Bay. . . .

Right-handed reliever Mike Fetters worked out with Kison before the game, throwing about 40 pitches, all fastballs. Fetters, who had elbow surgery June 22, will accompany the team on the road, and will throw several more times on the side before starting a rehabilitation assignment. . . .

It appears likely that veteran left-hander Jesse Orosco will break Dennis Eckersley's record of 1,071 career games pitched during the road trip. Orosco's 1/3-inning stint today was his 1,069th appearance.