Baines adds thunder to stormy 4th inning DH's homer brings out sun

Orioles Notebook

first batter HRs off Mathews

March 01, 1998|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- As Harold Baines batted in the fourth inning of the Orioles' exhibition opener yesterday, a light rain turned into such a heavy downpour that fans bolted for cover. Baines stood his ground.

The Orioles' designated hitter wiped off his bat and ripped the next pitch from Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Frank Lankford into the bleachers in right field, more than 400 feet away.

By the time Baines circled the bases, the rain had let up and the sun broke through the clouds. It was typical of Florida's weather. And the two-run homer, which broke a 2-2 tie in a game the Orioles won, 7-5, brought a typical, understated reaction from Baines.

"I had to stay in there," said the St. Michaels resident. "They [the umpires] weren't going to call it. I had to get back in there and concentrate," he said.

"All I was trying to do today was make solid contact. The home run was a bonus."

"He's just a professional hitter," said Orioles manager Ray Miller. "When you can hit him seventh, that's a good lineup."

Rude Mathews reception

In his two innings of relief, right-hander Terry Mathews gave up two runs and any chance of getting through the day without being reminded of last year's playoff disaster.

Mathews was pitching for the first time since allowing back-to-back homers in Game 3 of the Division Series and being soundly booed by the Camden Yards crowd. The first batter he faced yesterday, former Oriole Todd Zeile, drove a 2-1 pitch over the wall in left leading off the sixth.

Todd Hollandsworth followed Zeile's homer with a single, but Jose Vizcaino lined into a double play and Tom Prince popped to second. Mathews surrendered another run in the seventh on a one-out triple by Wilton Guerrero and a bouncer to third by former Oriole Mike Devereaux, who's in the Dodgers' camp as a nonroster invitee.

"I felt real strong out there," Mathews said. "In the first inning, I was just doing everything I could to get the ball down. I got behind Zeile and I wasn't going to walk him, so I threw a fastball right out in the middle and he hit it.

"The next inning was much better. The one hit was a good fastball down and the guy [Guerrero] can just fly. I got the ground ball to third [by Devereaux], and during the season if it had been close they might have gotten the guy at home. But that's fine. Overall, a good feeling, not great results."

Maybe it's better this way.

"If I cruise through spring training, that means I'm ready too quick," he said.

Surhoff jams finger

B. J. Surhoff jammed a finger on his right hand while diving back to first base after reaching on an infield hit in the second inning. He was removed after three innings, but Miller said it wasn't serious.

Miller was told by trainer Richie Bancells that Surhoff had bruised the back of his finger.

"Richie iced it down. It's no big deal," Miller said.

Surhoff kept the injury talk to a minimum. "It's no problem," he said.

Webster gives shoulder time

Catcher Lenny Webster told Miller that he still had some tenderness behind his surgically repaired left shoulder and wouldn't be available for today's game against the New York Mets at Port St. Lucie.

Webster will be held back a couple more days, most likely starting on Tuesday against the Minnesota Twins.

Miller said Charlie Greene, who appeared in five games with the Orioles in September after being claimed off waivers from the Mets, would start in Webster's place today.

"Ray said, 'Don't try to be a hero,' so he's got me backing off a little," Webster said. "We're taking it slow. It's up to me if I start and play one or two innings. Whatever's comfortable. It's feeling a lot better. And the throwing [right] side is strong."

Who's on first?

Miller said he will give catcher Chris Hoiles some time at first base, where he played in four games last season, including three starts.

He won't be the only catcher over there this spring. Jim Foster, who drove in 110 runs at three levels of the minor leagues last season, will see some playing time at first base, as well.

"I'm going to try to get him as many at-bats as I can," Miller said.

Foster replaced Baines at designated hitter and walked leading off the seventh.

Miller inserted Joe Carter at first base in place of Rafael Palmeiro after four innings yesterday. Carter's first swing as an Oriole, leading off the sixth, produced a double off the left-field wall.

Coppinger goes Wednesday

Right-hander Rocky Coppinger will pitch for the first time since July when he follows Doug Drabek in Wednesday's exhibition game against the St. Louis Cardinals in Jupiter.

Coppinger is out to show the club he's recovered from August surgery on his right elbow and shoulder, and in better condition than last season after a two-week stay at Duke University's Diet and Fitness Center.

It's a far cry from last spring, when he was locked into the role of fourth starter and trying to ignore the pain caused by inflammation in his shoulder.

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