Baines' bat rouses from spring slumber

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

HR is 5th hit in 11 at-bats

Maduro replace Molina

June 21, 2000|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

OAKLAND, Calif. - Harold Baines discovered another way Monday night his role might be diminished. Center fielder Brady Anderson couldn't play.

Baines, whose presence has steadily decreased since he opened the season as the Orioles' regular designated hitter and No. 5 hitter behind Albert Belle, couldn't pinch hit for rookie center fielder Luis Matos with runners at second and third in the ninth inning of a 12-12 game as manager Mike Hargrove found himself with no spare outfielders. Injured during Sunday's 8-6 loss to Anaheim, Anderson rested his sore right quadriceps, which also kept him out of yesterday's lineup.

With Baines held hostage by Anderson's injury, Matos grounded out. The Orioles did not score and eventually lost, 13-12, in 10 innings.

Anderson is expected to be available today, according to Hargrove, but his unavailability at a critical time Monday suggests the condition is more than an inconvenience.

Recent indications suggest Baines may be rediscovering the stroke that has made him the most productive designated hitter in the game's history.

Facing A's right-hander Tim Hudson, Baines opened yesterday's scoring with a third-inning home run, his fifth this season and first since May 23. The home run was his fifth hit in 11 at-bats.

Hargrove repeatedly has voiced support for the 41-year-old Baines, including during a meeting with the player last week.

"Not by any way, shape or form is Harold Baines done," insisted Hargrove, who managed Baines for 28 games last season in Cleveland. "He still has a lot of baseball left to play."

At the same juncture last season, Baines had 48 RBIs compared with 17 this year.

Baines went 2-for-3 against the Angels on Sunday, his first multi- hit game since May 8. The breakout snapped a 3-for-30 funk but left him with a .164 average in his last 21 games before yesterday.

"I've struggled before," said Baines, batting No. 8 in the order recently for the first time since 1982 with the Chicago White Sox. "I can't blame it on anything except that I haven't been swinging well. It's part of the game. You try to minimize the down times and remain as steady as possible. Being confident isn't the problem."

Maduro back, Molina down

The long-awaited return of Calvin Maduro finally occurred yesterday when the Orioles optioned Gabe Molina for the third time this season. Maduro was placed on the disabled list retroactive to May 13 with a sprained elbow ligament. The Orioles intended to activate him last Friday but delayed a move because of complications surrounding a corresponding move with Jose Mercedes.

Mercedes helped himself with 3 1/3 shutout innings on Sunday. Molina repeated his role as organizational frequent flier. Yesterday's move marks the sixth time he has been optioned the last two years.

Hargrove was impressed with Molina's latest outing, a scoreless sixth inning in last Friday's win over the Texas Rangers.

"He showed us he can be effective, but he needs to pitch," said Hargrove. "It doesn't help him to be the 12th pitcher here."

In his three outings, Molina has a 9.00 ERA in three innings. Maduro, who gave up a three-run homer in one-third of an inning yesterday, is without a decision in 14 appearances, including two starts, and carries a 9.67 ERA.

Congress discusses O's

The chairman of the U.S. House Education and the Workforce Committee asked baseball commissioner Bud Selig to investigate Orioles owner Peter Angelos' reported policy of not hiring Cuban defectors.

The 1964 Civil Rights Act "makes it illegal for an employer to deny a job to someone based on national origin," said Rep. William Goodling, a Republican from Pennsylvania. He said the reported policy was "un-American."

Angelos has denied that his team refuses to sign Cuban defectors and insisted that such accusations are unfair and inaccurate.

Matos' splash

Matos said he arrived at Network Associates Coliseum Monday unaware that he would receive his first major-league start. "I wasn't nervous, but I was anxious," he said.

Matos, 21, who had spent most of the season at Double-A Bowie, was 0-for-4 with a walk and his first stolen base. He broke well against A's left-hander Mark Mulder and easily beat the throw.

"I was more anxious to get my first hit," he said. "You don't get the base when you get a stolen base. When you get your first hit, you get the ball."

Around the horn

The Orioles, having set a club record by losing with 12 runs Monday night, also entered some rarefied air yesterday by not having a defensive assist. It was the fourth time in American League history and the sixth time in major-league history that a team failed to have two players team up for an out. The last time it occurred was in the Cincinnati Reds-Colorado Rockies game of Aug. 20, 1997. ... Charles Johnson was given yesterday off after catching more than 200 pitches in Monday night's unsightly loss. Greg Myers filled in with two singles, giving him eight hits in 23 at- bats after a 1-for-18 start to the season. ... B. J. Surhoff extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a fifth-inning single that raised his average over .270 for the first time since May 9.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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