Bordick, Surhoff rise with spots in order

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Rhodes talks on hold

Ripken return may wait

August 12, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Location, location, location.

It has become the story of several Orioles' offensive seasons.

Shortstop Mike Bordick is enjoying a career year after being promoted from the bottom of the lineup to its No. 2 spot. Left fielder B. J. Surhoff is enjoying a similar sensation after jumping to No. 3, but first baseman Will Clark is experiencing a hangover from an April thumb injury that dropped him in the lineup behind several plodding teammates.

"I'm being pitched the same," said Surhoff, capping his emergence last night from a weeklong slump with four hits, including his 22nd home run, tying his career high. "I'm still seeing as many off-speed pitches, but I'm having more opportunities with men on base, and I'm getting more at-bats. I'm also getting at-bats earlier in the game."

Surhoff usually batted sixth last season, when he hit 22 home runs with 92 RBIs.

Bordick, who sat out until the ninth inning yesterday, generated five RBIs Tuesday night to draw within one of his career-high 54 RBIs established in 1996. His 33 extra-base hits also put him on pace to eclipse last year's career high of 43. Of course, Bordick has batted second in 91 of 110 starts.

Clark's drop in the order has coincided with his drop in production. Though he is hitting .309 with runners in scoring position (.450 with none or one out), he has struggled to score runners such as Albert Belle and Harold Baines.

"You might say the [thumb] injury slowed things down, but I've had a fairly decent year," said Clark, who was 3-for-5 last night to lift his average to .306. "If you look at the pure numbers, there are a lot of inconsistencies. That happens in this lineup."

Added Clark: "A lot of things happen that are a direct reflection of who's in front of you. Albert is a 50-50 guy. He hits a lot of doubles. And needless to say, Harold's not the Carl Lewis of the baseball world."

Manager Ray Miller is less sold on the theory. He picked up a statistical printout and appeared to minimize the connection between Clark's production and his lower position within the batting order. Clark has batted sixth in 41 games while Jeff Conine has hit sixth or lower in 39 starts. Clark has driven in 15 of 106runners in scoring position while Conine has driven in 32 of 107.

Rhodes put on hold

Despite a flurry of conversation before the July 31 waiver deadline, the Orioles and representatives for left-handed reliever Arthur Rhodes now appear far removed from agreeing on a contract extension. Earlier discussions about a possible four-year deal have soured.

The Orioles, reluctant to grant a second reliever the same guarantee as closer Mike Timlin received last November, now appear willing to go no further than three years. Rhodes, meanwhile, is insisting upon a deal in the same neighborhood as Timlin's four-year, $16 million package.

"Our position as it stands today is that we'll likely be filing for free agency after the season," said Rhodes' agent, Danny Horwits. "I would say we're not close."

Rhodes' age, 29, works in his favor. However, his difficulty pitching on consecutive days because of knee and elbow complications tempers the Orioles' enthusiasm for a four-year deal.

The contractual impasse contributed to the Orioles' 11th-hour push to trade Rhodes before the waiver deadline; however, general manager Frank Wren's attempt to acquire New York Yankees shortstop prospect D'Angelo Jimenez proved futile as did talks with at least four other clubs.

Offensive overload (cont.)

The Orioles' 17-1 rout Tuesday night was unusual for reasons other than volume. While they produced 20 hits for the 22nd time in franchise history and the third time this season, they did not include a home run among their barrage. The homer-free win snapped a string of six games in which they had homered. However, the Orioles' six doubles equaled a season-high set May 23 vs. Texas and matched on June 1 vs. Seattle. They have homered in 84 of 114 games, including two last night.

Devil Rays "closer" Wade Boggs also reflected on Tuesday's 1 1/3-inning stint that had him face seven hitters, the last being Orioles right fielder Albert Belle. Intimidating to those who pitch for a living, Belle was especially imposing to Boggs. The third baseman-pitcher spun a fastball by Belle for a called strike before winning the battle on a fly ball to center field.

"I don't think he was too pleased with that," Boggs said. "The only thing going through my mind when he walked up to the plate. I said, `Albert, just don't hit one right back at me.'

"I can take 90 feet, but 60 is a little close."

Ripken's wait extended

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