Journeyman May makes unexpected Orioles stop

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Son of '60s Oriole gives Miller left-handed bat

1st base job is all Conine's

August 22, 1999|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Derrick May began the season in Mexico. He ended his Orioles debut last night with a two-out, run-scoring pinch single in the ninth that forced extra innings in Game 2 of a day-night doubleheader.

The Orioles purchased May's contract from Triple-A Rochester yesterday after placing Will Clark on the disabled list. May, 31, flew into Philadelphia in the morning and drove to Baltimore, arriving at Camden Yards around 12: 30 p.m.

He's made longer trips than that.

May, who has played parts of nine seasons in the majors, was signed by the Orioles on June 3 and sent to Rochester after hitting .326 with four homers and 29 RBIs in 32 games with the Monterrey Sultans of the Mexican League. He had been released by Montreal in spring training.

The Orioles are May's sixth major-league team. He was a first-round draft pick of the Chicago Cubs in 1986 and spent parts of five seasons with them before signing with Milwaukee as a free agent in 1995. He lasted only three months before being traded to Houston.

May played for Philadelphia in 1997 and Montreal the following year. He was the Expos' best left-handed pinch-hitter last season with 12 hits in 34 at-bats. He also started 38 games in left field.

The Delaware native, who was a high school rival of second baseman Delino DeShields, never has appeared in more than 128 games in any season. He's a career .271 hitter with 48 homers.

May, who grounded out as a pinch hitter in Game 1, said he was "stunned" to learn he would be joining the Orioles, who will use him off the bench. He batted .348 in his first 31 games at Rochester, but only .209 since July 7. Overall, he was hitting .276 with 19 doubles, two triples, five homers and 41 RBIs.

"I didn't anticipate this, but I'm happy to be here," he said. "But I don't want that to be misconstrued, like I'm just happy to be here. I want to contribute, do what I can to help the team win."

"I've been everywhere," he added. "It's been a long journey."

Playing in Mexico provided May with the chance to get in shape and get noticed.

"I started to think some things through," he said. "You start to ask, `What am I doing here?' But it gave me a chance to play."

May, the son of former Oriole Dave May, appeared to be pretty comfortable in the clubhouse. He spotted some former teammates from Milwaukee, including B. J. Surhoff, Mike Fetters and Al Reyes. But most important, he was back in the majors.

"There's no place I'd rather be," he said. "Sometimes you take things for granted. And I'm definitely excited to be closer to home. I wanted to play in Baltimore for a long time."

Manager Ray Miller wanted another left-handed bat on the bench, a need that became more urgent with Clark going on the DL. Rochester's Howie Clark had been discussed. First baseman Calvin Pickering never was seriously considered because the Orioles want him to continue playing every day and don't want to reward him for a season that has fallen below expectations.

As for May, Miller said: "He's been across the field from me many, many times. He's always a threat; a big, strong guy. He has a little bit of speed and he's an adequate defensive player. The kind of guy you worry about sitting over there. This gives us an extra weapon."

Clear sailing for Conine

When Jeff Conine was traded to the Orioles in spring training, he looked at the players ahead of him at his positions and figured at-bats would be scarce. For someone used to playing every day, this would constitute a major adjustment.

His only adjustment now is again seeing his name in the lineup every day.

Conine made his 71st start in Game 1 of the doubleheader, going 2-for-4 with his 11th home run. He was back at first base in the nightcap, the 103rd game he's appeared in this season. And there will be many more.

With Clark scheduled for season-ending elbow surgery on Thursday, Conine will continue to handle the first base duties. The club can only hope he continues his offensive surge.

Despite going 0-for-3 in Game 2, Conine is 13-for-25 (.520) with three homers and seven RBIs since taking over for Clark on Aug. 14. The timing of his return to regular duty couldn't be better.

"I feel good," he said. "It's probably more of a confidence thing. You just feel good, you feel confident and that gives you a better chance to get a hit."

Around the horn

Cal Ripken is expected to accompany the team to Kansas City after today's game, but it's still not certain when he'll begin working out. "He did say [Friday] night that he feels much more optimistic about things right now," Miller said. Jesse Orosco appeared in both games to pass Dennis Martinez and tie Gregg Olson for ninth place on the club's all-time list, pitching in 320 Orioles games.

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