Staying put for now, Myers goes fourth in O's batting order


Streaking catcher still unsure of O's future

Kinkade waits his turn

April 18, 2001|By Joe Strauss and Roch Kubatko | Joe Strauss and Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Greg Myers completed his ascendance from the forgotten last night. A player who last season added to a reputation for hard luck and injuries batted cleanup against the Cleveland Indians while returning as designated hitter.

Myers was 6-for-11 with eight RBIs and two home runs in three previous games against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Last night, when he went 0-for-3 with a walk, marked his fourth consecutive start but his first as the Orioles' cleanup hitter.

His recent tear, however, has done nothing to add to his sense of security. The oldest of four catchers on a transitional team, Myers, 35, figures his days are numbered locally.

"The toughest part is not knowing where you stand," said Myers, whose 14-year career is dotted with three trades. "I don't know any more now than I did" in spring training.

Myers hit consistently this spring and has carried over into a season where he was projected as No. 3 catcher behind Brook Fordyce and rookie Fernando Lunar. He appeared in only one of the first 10 games before receiving a start in last Saturday's day game following a Friday night game.

"I still don't have any idea of how long I'm going to be here," said Myers, who has not approached either manager Mike Hargrove or vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift for answers. "It would be different if I had a good idea of what my role was here. Last year I knew I was the backup catcher. This year it's a little harder to say. Hopefully, if I do well it will open their eyes to something else."

With first baseman/DH David Segui still recovering from a hamstring twinge, Myers is likely to continue in his role as left-handed designated hitter.

"We are not actively trying to trade Greg Myers," Hargrove said.

While Thrift may no longer be pushing Myers, it's because he cast a net throughout the industry during spring training and has yet to snag any significant interest. Initially intent on obtaining a rostered player in return for Myers, Thrift is unlikely to drop the asking price now that the left-handed hitter has emerged as the Orioles' surprise RBI leader.

The Orioles would also likely assume a piece of Myers' contract, which provides him $1.2 million this season plus a $200,000 option buyout.

"We don't have the luxury of trading an offensive hitter," Thrift said. "He's doing a great job."

Kinkade's waiting game

Mike Kinkade knew if he made the Orioles' 25-man roster out of spring training, he'd spend most games watching from the dugout. That's life as a utility player.

That doesn't mean it has to be easy.

After receiving 58 at-bats in spring training, more than enough to convince the Orioles he could help them at this level, Kinkade had gotten only nine going into last night's series opener against the Cleveland Indians. He made two starts, in left field and at third base. Mostly, he sat and waited. And waited some more.

Kinkade tied outfielder Eugene Kingsale for the club lead in games played this spring with 26. A late slump pulled down his average to .259, but he led the Orioles with five homers and ranked third with 13 RBIs. That was enough to get him to Baltimore, but not necessarily in the lineup.

He's mostly been tethered to the bench, even with Jeff Conine and Segui nursing injuries and most of the club mired in a slump so pronounced its collective average stayed below .200 until a few days ago. Hargrove sent him up as a pinch hitter for Delino DeShields in Sunday's game against Tampa Bay, and Kinkade grounded into a double play.

"You can't control when you play and when you don't play," said Kinkade, part of the four-player package obtained from the New York Mets last July for shortstop Mike Bordick. "You've just got to be ready any time they put you in, and that's what I'm trying to do. Hopefully I get some opportunities and some chances, but every team's got utility guys and bench guys. That's part of being on a team."

He got such a chance last night, leading off the seventh inning as a pinch hitter for Cal Ripken, and responded with an infield hit. He then took over at third base.

Even with his sporadic appearances, it beats playing every day in the minors, which Kinkade has been accustomed to doing in the past. He led all Double-A hitters with a .358 average last year and hit .364 in 15 games at Triple-A Rochester before the Orioles called him up on Aug. 21. It was a given that his name would be in the lineup.

"There are times in the past when you're younger and you want to play, but I really wanted to make the team," he said. "And I knew if I made it, it would be as a utility guy. So I'm real happy about that. Now, hopefully, I keep myself ready and get a chance to play."

At least Kinkade has some prior experience to fall back on. He began the 1999 season with the Mets, appearing in 28 games and making only nine starts. The adjustment to part-time duty had been made, though slowly and with some difficulty, before ever wearing an Orioles uniform.

"That was the first time I was ever a bench player and it was tough. I mean, I did not enjoy that at all and I struggled," he said. "This time around I knew what it was going to be like going into it, and I know how hard it is to be a bench guy and pinch hitting and stuff. I'm just trying to keep myself a little more prepared, knowing that role. Hopefully that'll help me, what I went through in '99."

`All right' milestone

The 300th career stolen base for Brady Anderson almost went unnoticed by the Orioles' outfielder.

Anderson was alerted of his milestone, which occurred during the seventh inning of Monday's game, by a member of the public relations staff after he entered the clubhouse. Kevin Behan, the baseball information manager, gave him the news.

"I didn't even know until after the game," said Anderson, who has gotten all but four of those steals with the Orioles.

Asked about its significance, he shrugged and said, "It's all right."

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