FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Albert Belle's first game of the spring in right field brought mixed results. Pat Hentgen brought his good stuff, even when confined to two pitches.
Belle hit the ball hard in both of his at-bats in the Orioles' first intrasquad game, lining out to left field and singling up the middle before being removed for a pinch runner. He also committed an error in the second inning while charging a single into shallow right by Brook Fordyce. The ball rolled under his glove, bringing harsh catcalls from a few fans. But Belle also cut off a single near the right-field line during his three innings in the field.
"He moved around better than I've seen him move around," said manager Mike Hargrove. "We'll keep running him out there."
The pitchers on both sides were instructed to throw only fastballs and changeups. Hentgen threw seven strikes among his eight pitches while retiring the side in the first inning, including a strikeout of Melvin Mora.
"I felt good. I threw some good changeups. And I like throwing to Brook. It's a nice target, and he meets you halfway to the mound to talk to you after the inning. I love that stuff. I'm fired up about that," said Hentgen, who's expected to start on Opening Day after signing as a free agent in December.
"Spring training is for starting pitchers. That's why it's six weeks long. The first game, we were told to throw four-seamers and changeups and work on locating the ball and pitching ahead. That's the thing you're looking for, seeing the ball come out of your hand free and easy and getting that good downward plane."
Chuck McElroy started for Sam Perlozzo's team and allowed one run and two hits in his only inning. Delino DeShields lined a single up the middle on the first pitch thrown by McElroy, and Chris Richard blooped a single into right field before Rule 5 draft pick Jay Gibbons lifted a sacrifice fly to left.
Jeff Conine hit a two-run homer off the left-field foul pole in the second inning off Sean Douglass. He had only three after the All-Star break last season.
Jason Johnson gave up two runs in his only inning but was victimized by two errors. Jerry Hairston blooped a single into left field, and Jose Leon and Fordyce went to the opposite field. First baseman David Segui made a leaping catch of a liner by Wady Almonte to begin a double play.
Catching an edge
Mike Kinkade won't call it an edge, but he knows having the ability to catch separates him from other players in camp who are trying to nudge him away from Baltimore.
Conine can play the corner infield positions and move to the outfield if needed. Gibbons can play first and has experience in left field. Neither, however, could serve as an emergency catcher if Fordyce and his backup - either Fernando Lunar or Greg Myers - become unavailable during a game. Only Kinkade provides that skill.
He continues to be grouped primarily with the other catchers in camp, though he also takes ground balls. He replaced Myers in yesterday's intrasquad game.
"I think they know I can play other positions, too," he said.
It's hard not to notice. Kinkade mostly caught while playing at Double-A Binghamton last season before the New York Mets included him in the trade for shortstop Mike Bordick. He worked behind the plate with Double-A Bowie but was used more in the infield at Triple-A Rochester. He served as the designated hitter twice after being called up by the Orioles.
"Last year, I'd play four games each week catching, and then third base and the outfield the other days. It wasn't like I was just playing in one spot. I was moving around," he said.
Asked if he'd rather become established at one position and shed the utility label, Kinkade said, "I'm just trying to make the team first. I'll worry about the position later."
Kinkade hit a combined .358 with 30 doubles, three triples, 14 homers and 82 RBIs for three minor-league teams. He was named to the Eastern League's All-Star team - as a catcher.
His year included a berth on the U.S. Olympic team and a month in the Dominican Winter League. For Kinkade, there wasn't much appeal in resting, even after returning home with a gold medal and every reason to shut it down for a while.
"I just went down there to get some at-bats before going on to spring training," he said. "I'm trying to make the team and I know I'm one of the bubble guys."
His versatility could keep it from bursting.
Anderson jumps at new test
Always up for a challenge, Brady Anderson has added another sport to his off-season resume: pole vaulting.
Anderson never had tried it until a chance meeting this winter with a female track athlete at the University of California at Irvine. Anderson had gone there to run when he noticed her working out.