Hargrove shuffles deck hoping that offensive spark is in the cards

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Anderson, Mora do not start against Red Sox

Richard plays center field

April 12, 2001|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

BOSTON - Mike Hargrove can still remember the night his manager with the Texas Rangers, Billy Martin, became so frustrated with his team's pitiful offense that he crafted a batting order by placing names on slips of paper that were drawn from a hat.

"Most people today would think that's terrible. He doesn't expect to win. But we did win, and we started swinging the bats from that spot," Hargrove said.

Hargrove stopped shy of such creativity last night, but he did construct his most unique configuration of an 8-game-old season.

The newfangled look featured Chris Richard in his first major-league game in center field, Jeff Conine in his first start as an Oriole in Fenway Park's spacious right field and rookie first baseman Jay Gibbons in his first start anywhere on the field. Both left-handed leadoff hitter Brady Anderson and the contact-challenged Melvin Mora sat.

Anderson has poor career success (0-for-10) against Red Sox right-hander Frank Castillo, and Mora had struck out in eight of 25 at-bats.

Richard, who contributed two of the Orioles' six hits in Tuesday's 10-1 loss, primarily played center field in high school and early in his career at Oklahoma State. Richard saw limited time at the position during spring training but was not expected to play there except in extreme circumstances. Apparently, a .170 team batting average, one home run and 15 runs in seven games qualifies.

"You've got to go through times as a hitter when the ball seems like a B.B. and times when it seems like a beach ball. Right now, the other teams are shooting BBs at us. That will change," Hargrove said.

Conine entered last night's game as the Orioles' leading run producer with four RBI and displaced David Segui in the cleanup role. Conine enjoyed a career .350 average against Castillo with four home runs and nine RBI in 40 at-bats.

Hargrove conceded right-left matchups carry less meaning against Castillo than most pitchers. The right-hander's best pitch, a changeup, breaks into a right-handed hitter. The same tendency by Atlanta Braves left-hander Tom Glavine often causes opposing managers to stack their lineups with left-handed hitters.

Last night's lineup featured five right-handed hitters, the switch-hitting Segui and three left-handers. Besides Anderson, left-handed-hitting catcher Greg Myers sat.

"Everybody's kept their head about it. It really is just seven games into the season. It doesn't do any good to go off half-cocked the first part of the year and panic. That's the worst thing you can do. The players aren't panicking, the coaches aren't, the front office isn't," said Hargrove. "We don't like it. We're taking every step we can to correct it. But we're not going to suddenly jump ship and start leading Cal [Ripken] off and batting Jerry [Hairston] fourth.

Nomo given a gift

Red Sox pitcher Hideo Nomo accepted the pitching rubber from Camden Yards before last night's game on behalf of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The Orioles shipped the slab at the Hall of Fame's request after Nomo's April 4 no-hitter. Nomo became the fourth pitcher to throw a no-hitter in both leagues and only the second pitcher to throw no-hitter in two centuries. (Cy Young was the other.)

Relief for Eastern Shore

The Orioles have expanded access for Eastern Shore fans by reaching agreement with TCI Cablevision to broadcast the team's nearly 40 Channel 54 telecasts. It's the first time since 1993 that Eastern Shore residents can watch the same number of games as Baltimore fans. TCI Cablevision broadcasts games on WJZ and Comcast SportsNet.

Around the horn

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation will kick off its 65 Roses club with a luncheon in the Orioles' DH Lounge on April 17. Pat Hentgen, Richard, and Ryan Kohlmeier are expected to attend. For each home run the Orioles hit this year, members of the 65 Roses club pledge to find a cure for the disease. ... Calvin Maduro's loss in Cleveland on Sunday extended his personal losing streak to five. It's a little-known fact because Maduro's previous decision was June 30, 1997 while with the Philadelphia Phillies. The team that beat him that day was the first-place Orioles. ... Hargrove wasn't kidding about using the designated hitter's role to rotate his position players. Segui last night became the sixth player in eight games to serve as DH. Segui also became the fifth player to hit in the No. 5 spot.

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