Catcher Myers flashes sign for more time with 3 RBIs

Backup's RBI singles, HR are 2nd straight lift

April 16, 2001|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

With the media often quick to jump to conclusions, it's understandable that there was some extra spring in their legs yesterday when Orioles bench coach Sam Perlozzo posted the lineup card outside manager Mike Hargrove's office.

Brook Fordyce, the club's regular catcher, who started nine of the first 10 games, was on the bench for the second straight day while backup Greg Myers took his place behind the plate. Myers contributed an RBI single in Saturday's 6-5 victory, when the Orioles tied their season high with four runs and four hits in the fourth inning, and earned another start yesterday.

Was Fordyce hurt or was there another motive behind the move?

Whatever the reason, Myers produced again. He lined a single into left field in the second inning that scored Cal Ripken and reduced Tampa Bay's lead to 3-1. In his next at-bat, he drilled a long home run to right field - only the second hit by the Orioles this season. And in the eighth, he hit a sharp grounder up the middle that eluded shortstop Felix Martinez as Chris Richard came around with the final run in a 7-4 loss to the Devil Rays at Camden Yards.

The three RBIs increased Myers' total to five, tying him with Jeff Conine for the club lead. Conine has 21 plate appearances, compared with 12 for Myers, who could be used as the designated hitter tonight against Devil Rays starter Ryan Rupe.

"Certainly when a guy's swinging the bat like that, you want to get him as many at-bats as you can," Hargrove said. "Fordyce is going to play tomorrow, but you might see Myers DH-ing or something."

Before the game, Hargrove stressed that Fordyce is "the No. 1 catcher" despite changes the past two days that they both said weren't related to the catcher's health. It's certainly not connected to Fordyce's performance at the plate. He was 6-for-21 in his past seven games after going hitless in his first seven at-bats.

For a team batting .201, Fordyce can be regarded as hot - except when he comes to not seeing his name in the lineup.

"I didn't think it was anything out of the ordinary. I didn't read anything into it. They just want to get some at-bats for the others," said Fordyce, who was summoned into Hargrove's office before taking the field.

"I'm not one of those guys [to complain]. I'll be ready when they need me. Did you see how we hit yesterday? You don't want to mess with that. You want to put the same guys out there again. I can understand that."

A club official insisted Myers wasn't being showcased for a possible trade. The Orioles have four catchers on their 25-man roster, including utility player Mike Kinkade, while still going with only 11 pitchers.

Myers checked the lineup upon arriving at the ballpark, as he always does, but couldn't have assumed he'd be given consecutive starts.

"I think it's been a while since that happened. I was a little surprised. You never really know. You've got to prepare yourself every day, and maybe you'll get in there sometime. You see your name in there and go get it. That's all you can do," he said.

"I feel pretty good up there. I'm just fortunate enough to get some balls to fall. Yesterday, I got a ball in the hole. Today, I looped one in."

Another one happened to fall about halfway up the seats in right field. Estimated distance: 410 feet. It was a fastball coming in and a missile going out.

Conine had been the only Oriole with a home run until Myers connected off Bryan Rekar. "Guys start worrying about that and trying to make those kind of things happen, you're going to have a hard time," said Myers, 35, who made his major-league debut 14 years ago. "Those are the kind of things that have got to come. You try to hit it as firm as you can, and if it happens, it happens."

That same philosophy holds for a potential trade. Myers arrived at spring training knowing that another backup, Fernando Lunar, was out of minor-league options and highly regarded by vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift, who acquired him from the Atlanta Braves in July. Myers expressed frustration at not being used much early in camp, remaining in a sort of holding pattern, and braced for a transaction that still hasn't come.

Now he's on the verge of starting three straight games if used tonight. "If you ask me now, I still don't really know what the plans are," he said. "But like in spring training, when they put your name in there, you go up. It's been that way a lot for me during my career. I've had platoon roles or semi-platoon, going with the hot guys. It's not anything real different. It happens in other places, too.

"You can see what's happening. There aren't too many teams carrying three catchers, let alone another guy who can also catch. That alone makes you start wondering. You hear things. Rumors go around. You think about those things, but you've still got a job to do and when you're called on, you do the best you can."

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