Baines wastes no time in smash debut

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

DH homers on first pitch

7 sign

Riley is no barber

March 04, 2000|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The first swing of spring from Harold Baines touched off the Orioles' first exhibition homer yesterday. And it wasn't cheap.

Facing Cincinnati Reds right-hander Mark Portugal, Baines reached the back row of bleachers in right-center field to start the Orioles toward a 6-4 victory at Fort Lauderdale Stadium.

Albert Belle had grounded out to open the second inning. The applause for Baines barely had died down when he connected.

"I told [hitting coach] Terry Crowley, `If he was a 20-year-old rookie, I'd worry about him hitting a home run on the first pitch he sees in the spring,' but Harold's been around long enough to know it's still real early and he needs to pay attention to the basics," said manager Mike Hargrove. "It's nice to see him do that."

That was just one of the highlights. Calvin Maduro and Mike Timlin each threw two scoreless innings. Brady Anderson drove in a run with a third-inning single. Wady Almonte tied the game in the seventh with an RBI single, and Jeff Conine moved the Orioles ahead with a two-run single.

Minor-league catcher Willie Morales provided an insurance run in the seventh. And Cal Ripken singled and made a leaping stab and throw of a high chopper by Chris Stynes in the fourth.

The Orioles' bullpen was shaky beyond Timlin. Buddy Groom allowed two runs and Mike Trombley served up a home run to Mark Lewis on his first pitch in the seventh. Al Reyes gave up three hits in the ninth, including a bases-empty homer by Mike Bell, but left-hander Radhames Dykhoff entered with two outs and retired D. T. Cromer.

It wasn't typical strategy for an exhibition game, but Hargrove decided to play the percentages and bring in Dykhoff against a left-handed hitter.

"I won't do that every game," Hargrove said.

Said Dykhoff: "I was supposed to be a backup in case we went into extra innings, but [pitching coach] Sammy Ellis told me to be ready. Then he told me, `You're in.' It was surprising. I never thought it would be that way, but it was exciting to finish the first game of spring training. We'll just go from there."

O's sign seven more

The Orioles signed seven more players to contracts for 2000, including four who spent part of last season in the majors.

Reliever Gabe Molina, infielders Calvin Pickering and Ryan Minor and outfielder Eugene Kingsale agreed to terms yesterday, along with pitchers Maduro, Juan Aracena and Juan Guzman.

Molina went 1-2 with a 6.65 ERA in 20 games with the Orioles. Pickering batted .125 with one homer in 23 games, Minor batted .194 with three homers in 46 games and Kingsale hit .247 in 28 games.

Maduro, who started yesterday's game in place of Scott Erickson, is vying for a spot in the rotation after winning 11 games at Triple-A Rochester last season. Minor most likely will begin the season at Triple-A Rochester, but he got noticed in the last two intrasquad games by going 3-for-3 with a homer and double.

The Orioles now have 36 players on their 40-man roster under contract. Starters Sidney Ponson and Jason Johnson are among those still unsigned. The club has the option of assigning them a salary.

Riley cuts fastballs, not hair

Minor's homer on Thursday came off left-hander Matt Riley, who is sporting a different look these days. One he apparently had not planned.

Noticed as much for his bleached-blond hair as his mid-90s fastball, Riley is walking around with an almost clean-shaven head. He didn't show up at camp like this, but said he had little choice. It seems Riley is a much better pitcher than barber.

"I was cutting it and messed it up, so I had to cut it all off," he said.

No room but Minor blooms

Minor continues to swing a hot bat. He doubled in the sixth inning yesterday after replacing Ripken, and also made a nice play along the line at third base to save a run.

Hargrove already has said it's not likely Minor will make the club because there's simply no room with Ripken and Will Clark returning from season-ending injuries and Jeff Conine re-signing over the winter.

"My main thing is I'm just out there relaxing and having fun," Minor said. "I'm not putting any pressure on myself to go out and do well and try to make the team because it's pretty much mathematically impossible.

"I'll have fun while I'm here, improve on everything I need to improve on and put myself in position to come back here and try to open their eyes again."

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