Myers catches start on day lineup card

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Outing is only reprieve in wait for release, trade from `catch as catch can'

April 27, 2001|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

DETROIT - Day games after night games continue to do strange things to the Orioles' lineup.

Last Thursday, Cal Ripken unexpectedly appeared on the lineup card after being written off the night before. Yesterday, Greg Myers returned from catching limbo.

Still the team slugging leader (.615), Myers received only his fifth start behind the plate as manager Mike Hargrove rested slumping starter Brook Fordyce. The move was not performance-related, according to Hargrove, but simply maintenance for Fordyce, who is projected to play about 135 games this season. For Myers, the team RBI leader until Wednesday night despite receiving only 22 at-bats, the outing is only a temporary reprieve from the veteran backup's extended wait for a release or trade.

"It's the same thing," Myers said after a 1-for-4 game dropped his average to .385. "It's just a matter of when something happens."

Vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift continues to explore trade avenues for Myers, who has received a relative windfall of playing time compared to rookie Fernando Lunar. The Orioles' third catcher, Lunar has received only four at-bats in five games.

Hargrove wryly describes the situation as "catch as catch can."

While Thrift is mindful of Myers' $1.2 million salary plus $200,000 buyout for 2002 and Lunar being the only active connection to last July's trade that sent B.J. Surhoff to the Braves, Hargrove finds himself hamstrung in how he uses his bench and handles an 11-man pitching staff.

"I'd say 99.9 percent of the time you've got two catchers and the backup is going to get anywhere from 150-250 at-bats," said Hargrove. "We've got three catchers, four with Kinkade. It's a good thing we've got one who can play somewhere else."

Fordyce is battling a profound slump that has sapped his average to .135. He is without an RBI in 52 at-bats, has scored three times in 16 games and owns a .212 slugging percentage. In his last eight games, Fordyce is 1-for-27.

"I've been struggling, no doubt about it," Fordyce said. "I'm making contact, but it seems like when I've hit the ball hard it's been caught. Then I fall into the rut of pressing in my next at-bat. They say it relaxes you when a flare falls in. And they're right. I know it would help me right now."

Fordyce's struggles approach those of shortstop Mike Bordick after he arrived in 1997 after signing a three-year, $9 million contract. Bordick endured 79 at-bats without an RBI and was batting below .200 as late as May 24.

McElroy still to start

Two days before his scheduled start against the Twins, Chuck McElroy faced two hitters in yesterday's 8-2 loss. His appearance does not affect his status, according to Hargrove.

"He's still going to go, for now," the manager said.

Glory days

Mike Trombley returns to Minnesota today hardly surprised that the Twins are riding an early wave of success. The Twins' closer in 1999 before signing a three-year, $7.75 million deal with the Orioles, he works out in Fort Myers, Fla., during the winter with several holdover players, including left-handed pitcher Eric Milton, outfielder Brian Buchanan and catcher A.J. Pierzynski.

"You don't expect anybody - not the Braves, not the Yankees, not the Orioles, not anybody - to start 15-4. That's unbelievable. But they have a great group of young players over there. I'm not surprised at all," said Trombley. "You look at their pitching with [Brad] Radke, Milton and [Mark] Redman. They're awesome. T.K. [manager Tom Kelly] does a great job of getting those guys ready to play. They're legitimate."

Around the horn

First baseman David Segui missed his third straight game yesterday as he continues to recover from a hand injury suffered Sunday against the Devil Rays. According to Hargrove, Segui is questionable for the entire weekend series against the Twins. The base-running injury caused swelling to his left hand, making it difficult for Segui to move his middle finger. Hamstring and hand problems have limited Segui to 16 games total and 10 starts at first base. Sunday marked his third consecutive multi-hit game. ... Delino DeShields extended his hitting streak to six yesterday with a sixth-inning triple. DeShields is 11-for-23 on the six-game-old road trip, more than doubling his average from .106 to .214.

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