Oates to shake up O's lineup by design Manager wants all to start in 1st 5 games

April 10, 1993|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

SEATTLE -- There will be several changes in the Orioles lineup the next two games, but observers are cautioned not to jump to any conclusions.

Sherman Obando, Jeff Tackett, David Segui, Tim Hulett and Mark McLemore are scheduled to make their first starts of the season tonight or tomorrow against the Seattle Mariners. Last night, against Erik Hanson, the first right-hander to start against the Orioles, Chito Martinez was in the starting lineup (right field) for the first time.

But the early changes in the starting lineup are part of a master plan drawn up by manager Johnny Oates, not an early panic induced by two straight losses or an offense that's been generally anemic all spring.

Oates says he plans to get every position player at least one start by the fifth game of the season.

"This is not to get somebody a day off, because the last thing anybody needs right now is rest," said Oates. "The idea is to get everybody a few at-bats early and get that first start out of the way."

In tonight's game, against rookie left-hander John Cummings, Obando will start in right field, Hulett at third base and Tackett will be the catcher for Rick Sutcliffe's second start. Tomorrow, Luis Mercedes returns to right field, McLemore will play second base, with Segui at first base and Glenn Davis replacing Harold Baines as the DH.

Tomorrow's game provides Oates an ideal time to give Baines a break. It will be the Orioles' third straight game on AstroTurf, it will be a day game after a night game and hard-throwing left-hander Randy Johnson is Seattle's scheduled starter. It is something of an oddity that the Orioles will have faced left-handed starters in four of their first five games, another reason to hold Baines out of the lineup.

Oates said the two season-opening defeats to the Texas Rangers had nothing to do with his decision to get everybody a start.

"I want to do it early this year," he said. "Last year, I think I boxed myself in a little bit [by staying with his regulars through the irregular schedule in the first month]."

As for the Orioles' lack of offense thus far, Oates said the poor run production was no mystery. "You look at our club, and I think by and large we're going to be an Earl Weaver type team," said Oates.

"With the exception of Brady [Anderson], Devo [Mike Devereaux] and [Harold] Reynolds, there's not much to do except sit back and let them hit. You're not going to do much in the middle of the lineup -- you're not going to bunt or run or pinch hit.

"In that part of the lineup our offense is geared to the extra-base hit," said Oates. "If we don't get them, we're not going to score a lot of runs.

"We only hit 11 home runs all spring, and we don't have any yet [in the regular season]. That's where the lack of offense is. We've played 30 games now [counting exhibitions] and Rip [Cal Ripken] is the club leader with two. He and Doug Jennings [who was released the last week of spring training] are tied.

"We can go from first to third on a single, but sometimes it's tough for us to score from first even on a double. I still think we have eight people capable of hitting 20 home runs.

"We can't force a lot of movement [on the base paths]," said Oates. "We've got to wait and see what happens. I feel very confident this team, when all is said and done, will score some runs."

Without the home run, however, Oates acknowledges it won't be easy. "We'll start some guys on the bases," he said. "We did it the other night with Cal [when Devereaux was running and Ripken singled to right field], and it enabled us to put men on first and third with nobody out.

"I don't have any problem running with anybody in our lineup [at the plate]," said Oates. "We're going to strike out some, but I don't think we have anybody who's going to strike out 110 times. I think we've got guys who can make contact.

"But when you do that [use the hit-and-run], you have to have enough speed on the bases to make the infielders cover the base," said Oates. "You don't want to be starting guys and having the infielders staying back and still making double plays."

At this point, Oates sees no reason for alarm. "All you can do right now is have patience and try to use good judgment."

And Oates hopes that getting everybody into the starting lineup before the season is a week old proves to be as logical as it sounds. A few runs, of course, might make it academic.

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