Conine cleaning up at the plate


On 13-game hit streak, veteran is committed to No. 4 spot in order

May 31, 2001|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

SEATTLE -- Jeff Conine may not know what position he'll play from day to day, but he knows where he's hitting. Orioles manager Mike Hargrove has committed Conine to the cleanup spot while he enjoys a 13-game hitting streak, tying the longest of the 10-year veteran's career.

Serving as right fielder, Conine entered last night hitting .440 (22-for-50) with two home runs and 14 RBIs during his tear. He barely kept the streak alive on Tuesday night with a sixth-inning infield single.

"This is as good as I can remember feeling at the plate for an extended period," said Conine, who last hit in 13 straight games in 1994. "When things are going well, you can get away with not feeling great on a given night. [Tuesday] night I felt blah, but I scratched one out."

The team leader in RBIs (28) and second in batting average (.327), Conine has excelled despite a plantar facia injury in his right foot suffered in the season's first week. The condition has caused him to accept a cortisone injection but still gives him excruciating pain after active games in the field.

"Anything involving stops and starts causes a problem," said Conine, who listed first base as his most problematic position because of frequent quick bursts to the bag.

The good news for the Orioles: "Hitting never affects it," he said.

Just call him `Ichiro'

Mariners rookie Ichiro Suzuki had his major league-leading 26th multi-hit game Tuesday night. Entering play yesterday, he led the majors with 83 hits.

Suzuki is followed by a legion of Japanese reporters who easily outnumber those assigned by local publications. Because he prefers to be known as "Ichiro" rather than his surname, references to him as his name appears on Major League Baseball's All-Star ballot are rare.

The Seattle Times takes it one step further, calling the Mariners' right fielder "Ichiro" even on first reference, status usually reserved for South American soccer stars.

Around the horn

Fernando Lunar started behind the plate for the Orioles in place of Brook Fordyce last night. Lunar has made six starts this season. ... Chris Richard sat against Mariners left-handed starter John Halama. Richard had endured consecutive hitless games for only the fifth time this season. ... Mike Kinkade stepped in as designated hitter. He entered the game 6-for-18 over his past seven games but now appears consigned to platoon status against left-handed pitching. ... The Orioles began last night having received at least five innings from their starting pitchers for the past 14 games. During that span, the rotation was 7-2 with a 3.76 ERA and nine quality starts. The rotation was only 7-17 prior to the run.

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