P. Martinez starts off O's with big test

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Red Sox ace has allowed only one run all spring

Ripken: Day 1 jitters still

Notebook

April 02, 2001|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

The last formality before Opening Day played out for the Orioles yesterday with the customary workout at Camden Yards. It lasted about two hours. Whether it makes any difference against Boston's Pedro Martinez remains to be seen.

The three-time Cy Young Award winner won't allow the Orioles to ease into the 2001 season. Unable to dip their toe into the water, they must jump in and avoid sinking to the bottom.

"He only gave up one run in spring training. Hopefully he gives up more than that tomorrow," said manager Mike Hargrove.

"I think if you asked anyone in the league, they would rather have Boston start off against someone else," said third baseman Cal Ripken. "It's probably the toughest challenge facing Pedro right now, but at the same time, he does occasionally lose a game. You have to go out there and try to scratch and claw and live up to the challenge and see how it goes."

The Red Sox only wish Martinez were available to them more than once every five days. Instead, they'll send out journeymen Hideo Nomo and Frank Castillo -- both signed as free agents over the winter -- to close the series. The Orioles will go with Pat Hentgen, Sidney Ponson and Jason Johnson.

Since Hargrove made the final roster moves in Atlanta, optioning outfielder Eugene Kingsale and left-hander John Bale, there wasn't much more to do yesterday besides unveil the lineup. Delino DeShields will start in left field, with Brady Anderson in right and Chris Richard as the designated hitter.

Hargrove could have used Anderson in left, Richard in right and DeShields as the DH, or kept DeShields in left and used Anderson as the DH. In the end, he chose to let his veterans -- including first baseman David Segui -- play a position rather than bat exclusively.

"There's really no significance to it other than the fact that I feel like Brady, Segui and Bop [DeShields] deserve the honor of being in [the field] on Opening Day," he said.

Last opener for Ripken?

Approaching his 21st season in the majors, and perhaps his last, Ripken said he still experiences the same feelings as another Opening Day unfolds. The passing of time brings many changes, but not in this instance.

"You come up north and it's a little colder and you start to feel the seriousness of the season," he said. "The excitement starts the minute you get on the plane. I didn't sleep real well last night and I'm sure I won't sleep too well tonight.

"The first [Opening Day], there's no excitement that compares to that one. All the other ones are tied for second. I still get the butterflies, I still get nervous. You always want to get off to a good start. There's a lot of excitement. You look forward to getting past it, but you also look forward to it. I think I'm ready to go."

There weren't many hits for Ripken this spring after returning from a fractured rib, but he swung the bat with more authority the last few games and continued to make plays in the field that showed he wasn't restricted or in pain.

"When I first came back I was feeling for the ball a little bit," he said. "I wasn't worried necessarily, but I didn't know if I let the bat go if the rib was going to feel anything, so I took it a little bit slow and tried to gain some confidence. ... I've taken enough hard swings and been in the box enough now to know that physically, I'm all right."

Not so cozy for hitters

Batting practice was peppered with comments from players insisting that balls they hit in the cage would have been home runs last year before home plate was moved back 7 feet.

The change in dimensions wasn't that noticeable, though the foul poles now are flush against the corners.

"It seems to be a little longer out there, just looking at it, but we'll have to wait and see how it plays and feels," Ripken said. "It doesn't look any different. It looks like the same beautiful ballpark."

Anderson was more concerned about the new warning track. "There are seams all over the place. Not safe," he said.

Scorecard, anyone?

Willis Roberts was among five Orioles to change uniform numbers after arriving in Baltimore. He exchanged 79 for 37, which had belonged to catcher Greg Myers.

Myers switched to 24, which he's worn with a few other teams. It had belonged to coach Brian Graham, who's no longer on the staff.

"It's more of a hitter's number," Myers said.

Mike Kinkade has gone from 68 to 17, which B. J. Surhoff wore before being traded to the Atlanta Braves last summer. Jay Gibbons switched from 83 to 25, and Calvin Maduro reclaimed 12.

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