Club mark for RBIs is icing on Bordick's April cake

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Hot-hitting shortstop belatedly finds he bests F. Robinson's '69 record

April 28, 2000|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

CHICAGO -- Mike Bordick, the Orioles' unlikeliest slugger, has quietly added another distinction to a breakout April.

Two days after the fact, it was learned that the Orioles' shortstop has broken the 31-year-old franchise record for April RBIs. The feat occurred Tuesday night in the third inning of the Orioles' 12-6 win over the Chicago White Sox.

Bordick lofted a sacrifice fly to right field that scored Rich Amaral and gave him 25 RBIs, one more than Frank Robinson collected in 1969. Bordick added two RBIs on Wednesday when he homered during an 11-6 loss.

"It's like I've said all this month: it's been a matter of receiving opportunities and making the most of them," Bordick said before going 1-for-4 without an RBI in yesterday's 13-4 loss.

Bordick was stunned to learn of his record. "I had no idea," he said. "It's one of those things you really don't think about until somebody mentions it to you. It's great. But I think you have to be very fortunate to reach something like [the record]."

Bordick, now hitting .364, entered yesterday leading Oakland Athletics designated hitter Jason Giambi by one for the American League RBIs lead. He has built a career-high 14-game hitting streak that included 13 games to open this season.

Bordick also has had three straight games of three RBIs and has slammed back-to-back home runs with catcher Charles Johnson in consecutive games. Bordick's six home runs are more than his total for five of his nine previous major-league seasons.

Once content to hit the ball to the opposite field, Bordick has now become a dangerous hitter, capable of jerking inside fastballs with power.

"It's been a continuation of some things I started with Rick Down [in 1998]," Bordick said, referring to the Orioles' former hitting coach now with the Los Angeles Dodgers.. "I've stayed with those principles and continued to work with Crow [hitting coach Terry Crowley]."

Bordick -- the Orioles' No. 9 hitter in all but three of his 21starts --has emerged as a strong candidate to become the second Oriole to win AL Player of the Month honors in as many cycles. Right fielder Albert Belle won the award last September when he tied Eddie Murray's club record with 30 RBIs for the month.

Bordick drove in a career-high 77 runs last season, two years after beginning his term with the Orioles by enduring 75 at-bats without an RBI. He managed just two RBIs in April 1997.

The shortstop's 27 RBIs tied him for 13th-most in a month by an Oriole. Outfielder Mike Young set the record with 32 in August 1985.

Bordick's next April RBI will allow him to break the team record for a shortstop he shares with Cal Ripken (September 1991).

"I think with that kind of stuff, it really doesn't help to get caught up in it because it can turn around," said Bordick. "I'm thankful for the opportunities to do some things in situations. But a lot of it is beyond my control. You try to make the most it while you can."

Belle's assignment

It has nothing to do with his traditional April struggles, but Belle served as designated hitter yesterday for the first time this season. Manager Mike Hargrove had intended to use Belle in the role Sunday against Oakland A's left-hander Mike Mulder , but reconsidered. Harold Baines, Brady Anderson and Jeff Conine also worked the role during the 3-4 road trip.

Belle told Orioles manager Mike Hargrove he would prefer to DH in Chicago, and Hargrove agreed. Wednesday night, Hargrove may have found a reason.

The Orioles' manager brandished a portion of a quarter that had been cut into thirds and hurled into right field. The cut edges had a blade's sharpness.

"Unbelievable," said Hargrove.

"It's good to know the guys in the [right field] Bullpen Bar haven't forgotten me," said Belle, booed mercilessly in the place he patrolled in 1997-98. "They're not very original."

Belle's hot start has receded into another difficult April. He managed a 1-for-4 afternoon yesterday with a flare just beyond second base, and he finished 2-for-16 for the series.

"It's been his track record," said Hargrove, as familiar with Belle's tendencies as anyone. "I watch Albert right now get himself out a lot. He's swinging at pitches early in the count that are pitcher's pitches. When Albert's going good, he doesn't do that. Right now, he is. ... If he stays with his track record, it'll kick in in mid-May or early June."

Belle's average has slipped to .256 with two home runs and 13 RBIs in 78 at-bats. While Hargrove acknowledges he is seeing few pitches to hit, he believes Belle can influence the trend. Belle batted .234 with four home runs and 14 RBIs last April before finishing the year with 37 homers and 117 RBIs

Erickson decision due

Hargrove said that he and vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift will meet with pitcher Scott Erickson today, then announce whether Erickson will start Sunday against the Texas Rangers.

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