Miller shuffles hot lineup against left-hander Anderson, Bordick sit

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Hoiles gets start at DH

July 19, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The appearance of a left-handed starter proved far more persuasive in manager Ray Miller's construction of last night's lineup than the Orioles' recent steamrolling offense. Countering the Anaheim Angels' Jarrod Washburn, Miller rested center fielder Brady Anderson and shortstop Mike Bordick. Miller also allowed Chris Hoiles his first turn as designated hitter and Eric Davis his first start in center field since June 15 and first outfield start since July 12.

Davis continues to be bothered with bone chips in his right elbow but has prospered at DH. Of the elbow condition, Miller said, "It's something that might be with him the rest of his life."

Jeff Reboulet started in place of Bordick, who sat for only the second time since June 19. Bordick protested the move, but Miller reminded him of his recent success following days off. Bordick homered in the first two games after the All-Star break.

Miller hoped that Jeffrey Hammonds would return to the lineup for only the second time since June 6 last night. But Hammonds failed to impress Miller during Friday batting practice and was told to gear back for the rest of the series.

"I didn't like the way he looked," said Miller, being careful not to aggravate further a disk condition that has occasionally caused numbness in Hammonds' hands as well as persistent soreness in his left shoulder.

Hammonds has played only six innings in six weeks and may have to entertain off-season surgery.

Aside from Hammonds, Miller considered more dramatic changes in his lineup but decided it counterproductive to a streaking team that has batted .330 (105-for-318) and scored 62 runs during its season-high nine-game win streak. Among the options Miller mulled were elevating catcher Lenny Webster from No. 8 in the order, having Rafael Palmeiro take his first day off from first base to serve as designated hitter, and having Hoiles fill in at first.

"The more I thought about it, the more I thought that would be too much," conceded Miller.

Miller did bump Palmeiro to No. 3 in the lineup while giving Joe Carter only his seventh shot at cleanup.

Becker's role increasing

A man without a reason for two weeks after his June 16 waiver claim, reserve outfielder Rich Becker had appeared in the last 11 games entering last night. Considered a solid defensive outfielder with speed, Becker has impressed Miller with his versatility and his left-handed bat while Harold Baines recovers from a pulled hamstring.

Becker has managed just six hits, but made an athletic catch against the right-field wall in Arlington on Thursday. Miller freely uses him as a late-inning defensive replacement for Carter.

"He's a good outfielder with a good arm and speed," said Miller. "And he's only 26. That's not a guy you give up on."

The former Met at first wondered why the Orioles claimed him as he languished behind Davis, Carter, Anderson and B. J. Surhoff. Now he sees his purpose.

"Obviously, the more at-bats you get the more comfortable you become," Becker said.

Miller has counseled Becker to become more patient. As a pinch hitter, he fell into the habit of attacking the first pitch that tempted him. Becker is 1-for-5 as a pinch hitter.

Friday night recap

Palmeiro created personal history while extending the Orioles' longest win streak in five years Friday night. With an opposite-field single, a double and his 300th career home run, Palmeiro accounted for all the offense in a 4-1 win over the Angels. The win was the Orioles' ninth straight and pulled them within 9 1/2 games of wild card-leading Boston.

"It goes both ways. When we're struggling, it seems everybody finds a way to struggle," Palmeiro said after hitting his 29th homer to trail only Seattle's Ken Griffey in the American League. "But now the pitching has been great, keeping us in the game. We're getting the breaks. We're hitting the ball. We need to keep this streak going as far as we can."

Palmeiro's three hits complemented 5 1/3 efficient innings from starter Doug Drabek (6-9), who won for the first time since May 28. A bullpen that has developed into more than a punch line used four arms to get 11 outs.

Palmeiro's two-run homer off Greg Cadaret in the eighth inning bumped a 2-1 lead to three runs. Armando Benitez earned his 12th save.

Rumblings down below

Rochester third baseman Willis Otanez remains the organization's most underrated talent, perhaps because of his position and proximity to Cal Ripken.

Otanez homered twice Thursday night, giving him 21, second in the International League. His 72 RBIs rank third. Otanez likely won't be seen at Camden Yards until September's roster expansion. Otanez, 25, may represent spice for a trade for major-league pitching should GM Pat Gillick decide to add to the roster before the July 31 trade deadline.

Until May 17, Matt Snyder had never made a start in 154 minor-league appearances. Now in the rotation at Double-A Bowie, he is tied for the Eastern League lead with three complete games.

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