May first beneficiary of Baines trade


His HR ties game in eighth, but Miller likely to rotate players at DH position

August 28, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

DETROIT -- Derrick May inherited the Orioles' designated hitter role last night.

How long he keeps it is uncertain, as manager Ray Miller plans to use the spot to rest his well-worn outfield in coming weeks. Although disappointed over the loss of one of the clubhouse's most respected figures, Miller now receives his wish to rotate players into the spot.

May batted sixth last night against Detroit Tigers right-hander Jeff Weaver while first baseman Jeff Conine was elevated to fifth. May has impressed Miller and general manager Frank Wren since his contract was purchased from Triple-A Rochester last Saturday. In six plate appearances spread over six games, May has homered, singled twice and produced a sacrifice fly. One of the singles forced a two-out tie in the ninth inning in Kansas City on Tuesday. Right fielder Albert Belle later won the game with a two-run homer.

"I had no idea how much of an opportunity I'd get here," said May, who received his first start with the club last night and hit a game-tying home run off Weaver in the eighth inning of a 5-4 loss. "I thought I might play a little left field if they rested B. J. [Surhoff], but other than that, I had no expectations. So far, it's gone all right."

Miller approached left fielder Surhoff about serving as DH last night. Surhoff declined, suggesting that today might be a better fit. May, who would have played left field in Surhoff's place was inserted as designated hitter instead.

Comfortable in left field, May has limited experience at designated hitter. Before arriving at Camden Yards, he had spent almost his entire major-league career in the National League, with the Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros, Philadelphia Phillies and Montreal Expos. He started 1995 with the Milwaukee Brewers, then in the American League, but was traded after 32 games to Houston.

"Except for some interleague games, I haven't had that much experience with it," said May, who began the season playing for the Monterrey Sultans of the Mexican League after being released by the Expos this spring. After signing with Rochester on June 3, he batted .276 with 19 doubles, five home runs and 41 RBIs. "But it's something I'm more than willing to handle."

Surhoff has played every game this season. He has missed only five starts in left field. In one of those he served as designated hitter. Miller has already promised that Surhoff's major-league-high consecutive-games streak would remain intact.

"I've said before I don't want to take away from anybody who's having a good year," Miller said. "That's a no-no thing for me. With an expanded roster, if you don't have a set DH, then you can use Brady one day, B. J. one day, Albert one day, Bordy [Mike Bordick] one day. That way, you can still play the guy having a good year."

Bordick has become something of a miniature Iron Man. He has started 124 of 128 games and missed an entire game only once.

Anderson is enjoying one of the best offensive seasons of his career. However, Miller is not afraid of playing Rich Amaral in center field while Anderson either rests or acts as DH. Anderson has started 114 of 128 games despite bone spurs in his ankle that required a cortisone injection earlier this month.

Around the horn

Third baseman Ryan Minor discovered the intricacies of Tiger Stadium's infield last night when a two-hop grounder off Juan Encarnacion's bat caught him in the jaw. The smash, which drove in a run, sent Minor sprawling. Head trainer Richie Bancells and Miller ran to him, but Minor was able to pick himself up and remain in the game. The patchwork Tiger Stadium infield, featuring a ring of loose sod around the pitcher's mound, is widely regarded as the league's worst. Cal Ripken continued progress in his recovery from nerve inflammation in his lower back. After batting in the indoor cage under the supervision of hitting coach Terry Crowley, Ripken fielded ground balls for the first time since returning to the disabled list retroactive to Aug. 1. Miller said reliever Jim Corsi was available last night after being treated for several days for a strained hamstring. Miller acknowledged that Corsi might have trouble covering first base if the situation arose.

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