Finally arriving, O's Forbes toils to stay 9-year minor-leaguer has 'bittersweet' starting debut

SIDELIGHT

July 27, 1998|By Eduardo A. Encina | Eduardo A. Encina,SUN STAFF

When Orioles second baseman P. J. Forbes came into the clubhouse yesterday morning and saw his name in the starting lineup, years of toiling in the minors seemed to have paid off.

Nine years, to be exact. The Orioles' 30-year-old rookie got his first major-league start yesterday.

Forbes spent seven years in the Angels organization, including three at Triple-A Vancouver. He had been at Rochester since 1997, but he never got an opportunity to play in the majors until the Orioles purchased his contract Tuesday. Forbes was inserted as a defensive replacement in the ninth inning twice last week, but he never got a major-league at-bat until yesterday.

Forbes sat at his locker before the game, butterflies in his stomach. But for the most part, Forbes said, he thought about his opponents rather than his own experience.

"There's really no time for that," Frobes said. "I just tried to focus on the game and on who was pitching and developing a game plan."

In the first inning, Forbes fielded a grounder from Mariners shortstop Alex Rodriguez for the Forbes second out of the game, which he said eased his tension. Then, in his first at-bat, in the second inning with two men on, Forbes took a slider from Mariners pitcher Jamie Moyer and hooked it down the left-field line, just a few feet foul, which prompted an ovation from the fans. He then grounded to short.

Tough luck continued for Forbes in his second at-bat, in the fourth inning. He hit a ball between first and second, and Mariners first baseman David Segui dived to his right, snared the ball and threw out Forbes.

He finished the day 0-for-3, but made several plays in the field in the 10-4 Orioles loss.

"It's good to be here," Forbes said."But once you get here, you have to earn the right to stay here, and a part of earning that right is winning. I think that was the most frustrating part about today. It was sort of bittersweet."

Manager Ray Miller started Forbes yesterday so he could move Jeff Reboulet to shortstop and give Mike Bordick, who has poor numbers against Moyer, a day off.

"He is a real fierce competitor," Miller said. "Pitchers don't know much about him. They don't know that he can hit ball well."

Forbes impressed the Orioles during spring training as a nonroster invitee. He hit .333 in 19 games during the spring, then continued his success at Rochester, hitting .312 with six homers and 44 RBIs and making the Triple-A All-Star Game. His 34 doubles at Rochester were second-highest in the minors.

"I think P. J. is the kind of guy that grows on you. He does a lot of the little things. He's not flashy and he might not always look pretty doing them, but he gets the job done," said Orioles third base coach Sam Perlozzo. "After spring training, I thought someone would get hurt and he'd be the guy we'd go to. To his credit, he went down and busted his butt and put some numbers up."

After the game, Forbes sat at his locker, the same locker that was leased out to minor-leaguers Bobby Munoz and Radhames Dykhoff for their brief Orioles stints. But to Forbes, being in Baltimore is about getting the opportunity to prove himself, an opportunity he never got with the Angels, who never invited him to spring training.

"To get a chance, you have to be in a situation where you are seen and you can prove you can play," Forbes said. "The Orioles gave me a chance. But now I have to prove I can compete here."

Pub Date: 7/27/98

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