Who's on first? It's Richard once more

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Segui's absence paves his return, rise to No. 4

Dad's Day essays sought

April 17, 2001|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Another day at Camden Yards brought another start for Chris Richard at first base, along with his second straight game as the Orioles' cleanup hitter against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

The free-agent signing of David Segui in December was supposed to push Richard to the outfield when he wasn't being used as a left-handed designated hitter. But a sore right hamstring has pushed Segui to the bench after serving as the DH three times in a four-game stretch. It's also elevated Richard in the order.

Before going 0-for-4 last night, Richard was batting .241, 40 points higher than the team's average. He was 7-for-23 since returning from a bruised right shoulder that cost him three games.

At various times this season, he's batted third, fourth, fifth and sixth and started at first, right field, center and as the DH.

"It keeps things interesting," he said. "It makes the season go faster."

Richard appeared in 56 games with the Orioles last season after being acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals along with minor-league pitcher Mark Nussbeck for closer Mike Timlin. He became the regular first baseman after Will Clark was dealt to the Cardinals in a separate trade, with only one of his starts coming in right field, his more natural position.

Last night marked his fourth start at first base, compared to only one in right, where Brady Anderson has made the most appearances with the Orioles (nine) this season.

"I've always played the position pretty well," Richard said of first base. "I didn't really play it last year until I got here. It was a matter of getting my feet wet. Maybe I was a little bit uncomfortable, but I had a lot of people coaching me who hadn't seen me play yet. This year, it's a case of feeling more comfortable with my surroundings and my coaches."

Though he went through spring training with more of an outfielder's mind-set, Richard said the move back to first base hasn't been difficult.

"It's not that tough to switch over. I see I'm playing first today and I get my glove out. It's not like it's a big deal. I've played both positions my whole life," he said.

"I was playing more outfield because David was there and Jay [Gibbons] was there, and when David gets healthy, he'll be the regular first baseman."

Richard hasn't brought power numbers to the fourth slot in the order. Like many of the Orioles, he began last night still waiting for his first home run after hitting 13 in 199 at-bats last season after the trade. He's been victimized at times by a strong wind blowing in, and the extra 7 feet that came with home plate being moved back hasn't helped, either.

"I feel like I'm right where I want to be," he said. "I've hit balls to left-center that I hit as well as I could hit a ball, and it didn't carry out. If I hit that ball in the summer time it probably carries out. And last year, maybe the 7 feet made a difference. I've hit some balls hard. Sometimes you hit it good, and if you catch it a half-centimeter lower, it carries out.

"Those are things that just come. I'm 29 at-bats in [before yesterday], and there are 400-and-some more to go. I never really thought I had a home run stroke anyway. I just try to hit the ball hard and if it carries out, it carries out. I'm not really concerned about it."

Segui, Conine ready in pinch

Though he wasn't used, Segui was available to pinch-hit last night after being out of the starting lineup for the second straight game.

"I was going to pinch-hit Segui [Sunday] if we had gotten anything going in the ninth," manager Mike Hargrove said.

"I don't think he's on the edge of pulling it. I think he's on the edge of it getting better."

Jeff Conine also has improved enough that he could be used off the bench. He has played only once since April 8 because of a sore right foot.

Father's Day contest

Cal Ripken will be among the hosts of a Father's Day celebration as part of the "Dad's Day at the Yard" promotion July 19-21 at Camden Yards.

Through the national event, kids are encouraged to log onto either www.dadsdayessay.com or www.ripkenbaseball.com and write an essay using 100 words or less on the theme, "Why I want to be like my Dad [or father figure]." Entries will be judged for originality, relation to theme, creativity and composition. They must be submitted before June 1, with the winners announced on Father's Day.

Among the prizes awarded to the top 25 finishers will be round-trip air transportation to Baltimore; a meeting with Ripken; an exclusive baseball clinic with Ripken and his brother, Bill; lunch with Cal, Bill and members of the Ripken Baseball staff; and dinner at the Towne Hall restaurant at Greenspring Station, which will be opening soon.

"My dad was such an important and influential part of my life, and this is the case with many young people," Ripken said of Cal Sr. in a statement released by the Orioles. "I am happy and excited to be able to provide kids with a forum to speak about why they admire their dad or father figure. This will be a fun celebration of a holiday that I have always enjoyed."

Around the horn

Anderson stole a base in the seventh inning that was the 300th of his career. All but four have come with the Orioles. ... Jerry Hairston's stolen base in the fifth inning was the first allowed by the Devil Rays this season. They had thrown out the previous five runners.

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