Notes: Hernandez could be DL bound
Catcher is doubtful to play vs. Yankees with strained oblique
MINNEAPOLIS -- Baltimore catcher Ramon Hernandez still hasn't been able to swing a bat and is looking more and more doubtful to play this weekend at Yankee Stadium. Hernandez, sidelined by a strained left oblique, would likely have to take a few days of batting practice before the Orioles would consider slotting him into the lineup.
If he's unable to hit by Friday or Saturday, the O's may even place him on the disabled list. Baltimore manager Sam Perlozzo wouldn't commit to a timeline on Wednesday, but he admitted the DL is a distinct possibility.
"I think we'll play it by ear," Perlozzo said before Wednesday's game. "We'll get all the input from the necessary people and if it looks like it's going to be realistically a longer time, then we might just want to go ahead and do it."
Backup Paul Bako and third-string catcher Alberto Castillo have split time while Hernandez has been on the shelf, but the Orioles have been caught one position player short. If the veteran was forced to the disabled list, he'd be eligible to return on April 15. Hernandez last played last Saturday in the exhibition game at Norfolk, Va.
"Injuries are weird. Maybe today you say you won't be ready for Friday, then tomorrow you wake up and you're good for Friday," Hernandez said. "I guess I'll just take it one day at a time, and we'll see how I feel the next day. I'm not going to say I might be ready, because it's not. I'll just say I don't know yet."
Hernandez said he's made some erratic progress in the past few days, but he also said he's not sure when he'll be able to take batting practice again. The former All-Star said he doesn't think he'll need to do a rehab stint in the Minor Leagues, and he said he's gone as long as a month without playing and without a rehab stint.
The bottom line -- in his mind and everyone else's -- is that he should make sure he's healthy before he returns to the field. Hernandez said that if the disabled list is the lesser of two evils, he'd be happy to go there.
"If I have to go to the disabled list, that's how it is," he said. "I want to play, don't get me wrong. I really want to play, and I really feel bored when I've got to watch the games. ... At the same time, I've got to think about if I go and play like this. If I lie and say I feel better, but I don't, I might hurt it again, worse.
"That could take one or two months, and that would really hurt the team. They don't deserve that. They deserve me to be honest, and I'm going to try to be honest, because it's going to be the best for me and the team."
First things first: The Orioles got Chris Gomez a start at first base Wednesday, which means that all of their position players will have played before the series ends. The utility man seemed to be phased out of the first-base picture in Spring Training, when Kevin Millar, Aubrey Huff and Jay Gibbons split most of the playing time.
Millar was on the bench Wednesday, and he seemed to understand the manager's intent.
"Gomez needs at-bats. Gomez is a big part of this club," Millar said. "He's as important as anybody on this club. ... He's one injury away from starting at third, short, second [and] first. This is the thing you do as a team. You have 25 men. And Gomez is one of the few guys that doesn't have an at-bat."
Millar batted .089 (4-for-45) in Spring Training and is 0-for-8 so far this season. He has often said that he needs to play often to thrive, but he's confident he'll come around in short order. Perlozzo holds the same confidence, and he said Millar will likely play either at first base or DH this weekend.
"He struggled a little bit in the spring, but I also thought he had some of the tougher luck of some of the guys also," Perlozzo said. "Towards the end of the spring, he was hitting some balls right on the button enough times, but they were right at people. But tonight, Gomey is the only guy who hasn't been in."
Pitchouts: Perlozzo said the Orioles won't do anything different with Daniel Cabrera, who allowed four stolen bases in his season debut. The manager said there were a variety of factors that went into the thefts, including Cabrera's slow time to the plate, a missed pitchout and an off-target throw from Castillo.
"It's the first game he's pitched out there. If it's something that we see is a trend, then we can do some things," he said. "If a guy is pitching good for you, it's a fine line how you can change mechanics to deliver a ball to the plate. [Do] you want him to get the hitter out or [do] you want him to get the baserunner? It's a fine line there.
"We can call some slide-steps and things like that to get him a little bit better. But last year, he was a lot better at it. We'll get him through the first start and then make adjustments after that."
Quotable: "The thing is it's an off-day tomorrow, and that means you have to wait one more day to pick up a win. It doesn't matter that we are going to play the Yankees. I think we all would like to sit on an off-day with a W." -- Perlozzo, on the importance of winning Wednesday's series finale
Coming up: After Thursday's day off, the Orioles will start a three-game series against the Yanks on Friday. Adam Loewen will get the ball in the opener, and he'll be matched against former Baltimore ace Mike Mussina.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.