For Baines, 350th just another HR trot

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

O's DH more concerned with winning

DeShields ends drought with RBI hit

April 16, 1999

NEW YORK -- Designated hitter Harold Baines makes history the same way he plays the game -- quietly and .fficiently, with dignity but virtually without emotion. Perhaps that is why Wednesday night's career marker passed with barely a whisper.

Or maybe it was the 14-7 beating administered by the New York Yankees. Baines contributed to the Orioles' five-run seventh inning by slamming a three-run homer off Hideki Irabu. That it was the 350th home run of Baines' brilliant but understated career was never mentioned to a Yankee Stadium crowd more intent on berating Irabu and Orioles right fielder Albert Belle than acknowledging a career moment.

"It's a number right now," Baines said before going 1-for-2 with two walks in last night's series finale. "But the most important number I'm concerned with is wins. That's what I'm into. The home run is nice, but it's not a priority."

For all of his effort to downplay the moment, Baines collected the ball. He also owns the 250th and 300th home run balls as well as the ball from his 2,000th hit.

"I'm not really sure where I've got them," he said. "They're not on display or anything like that. I have them. That's enough."

Baines needs only 10 more RBIs to reach 1,500 for his career. He trails only teammate Cal Ripken among active RBI leaders.

"He's always been a very productive, professional hitter," said manager Ray Miller. "He's very observant, very dedicated to the game. There was a young player here last year who noticed a pitcher doing something with his hands on every breaking pitch. He was going up and down the bench telling everybody. Harold told him to quiet down; the pitcher had been doing it for the last two years."

Baines' 350 home runs are the second-most by a player never to enjoy a 30-home run season. Baltimore native and Hall of Fame Detroit Tigers outfielder Al Kaline hit 399 without a 30-homer year.

DeShields moves up, gets hit

Delino DeShields got his first hit as an Oriole, and he did it while batting second.

DeShields moved up in the order last night after hitting eighth or ninth in his three previous starts since coming off the disabled list on Sunday. Coming in 0-for-9 with three walks, DeShields singled to drive in Brady Anderson in the Orioles' two-run second inning before going hitless in his last three at-bats.

Miller wouldn't commit to the change, which included dropping Mike Bordick (2-for-4, one RBI) to ninth, beyond last night. He wanted DeShields hitting second to get an extra left-handed bat at the top of the lineup against Yankees starter Roger Clemens. "Take a shot at getting Moose [Mike Mussina] the lead," he said.

DeShields had been projected as the No. 2 hitter this spring before fracturing his left thumb on March 4. Asked before the game about the switch, he said, "It doesn't matter. It's just the lineup. I don't have a preference, not right now. I'm just trying to get on the board. It's coming slowly. I've just got to be patient."

DeShields said there's no pain in the thumb when he swings, but his timing remains off. "But I'm not making any excuses. I've just got to keep playing."

Miller explained the change to Bordick in his office. Bordick is hitting .300 (12-for-40) with three doubles and a triple.

"He was OK with it. Bordy's a gamer," Miller said.

Security for Belle

The right-field bleachers in Yankee Stadium have never been known as a bastion of civility. But this series only enhanced their reputation for churlishness.

Predictably, Belle's mere presence in right field was enough to incite Wednesday night's bleacher bums to hurl an incessant string of orchestrated profanities. Belle responded to the chants by gesturing to the crowd, which caused other areas of the ballpark to join in.

Eventually, objects were hurled at Belle. Umpire Ken Kaiser called Belle toward the infield for a brief conference, which only further revved the crowd.

When Belle left the field at the end of the fifth inning, a fan near the Orioles' dugout added his own profanities, causing Belle to motion him toward the field.

Additional security was sent to the area during Wednesday's game. A greater presence was also noticeable last night.

"There should be a line somewhere," said Miller. "Albert comes into the dugout and some guy is standing up yelling all kind of stuff, personal stuff. The fans around him were apologizing for it. It's ridiculous."

Asked about Belle's gestures, Miller added, "I don't think Albert's going to walk away from a fight."

Conine left out

Jeff Conine's last start came nine days ago, when the Orioles faced their second Tampa Bay left-hander in two games. Since then, it's been nothing but right-handed starters, and nothing for Conine to do except wait.

Miller intends to give Conine some at-bats this weekend, with a start tomorrow assured against left-hander David Wells. That also could be the day Miller sits first baseman Will Clark for the first time.

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