Johnson throws curve with booming homer


Hitters `to hear about it rest of year'

Batista hit by pitch, hurts hand


March 25, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Orioles pitcher Jason Johnson showed off his warning track power while batting in yesterday's game against the New York Mets.

The warning track was located on an adjacent field beyond left field.

After striking out and almost stumbling out of the batter's box during his first at-bat, Johnson unloaded on Mets starter Shawn Estes in the fourth inning. Attacking the first pitch following a Brook Fordyce single, Johnson sent the ball soaring over the fence as players in the Orioles' dugout leaped off the bench to watch.

"It was just a fastball down the middle of the plate. I don't think he was trying to throw it there but he did and I got a pretty good hack at it," he said.

"The hitters were saying, `We're never going to live this down. We're going to hear about this the rest of the year.' "

Johnson remained in a full sprint -- at least by his standards -- after the ball had landed. He finally broke into a home run trot as he approached second base.

"I hit some in high school, but that's about it," he said.

Batting again in the sixth after another Fordyce single, Johnson attempted to bunt the first pitch and popped to the catcher.

"I'm the idiot who made him bunt after that," manager Mike Hargrove said.

Pitch bruises Batista's hand

Tony Batista was hit on the left hand by a Pete Walker pitch in the seventh inning and stayed down as assistant trainer Brian Ebel ran out of the dugout to check on him.

Batista said the hand was fine, but he had it wrapped after the game. Jose Leon replaced him at third base in the eighth.

"The ball pinched his hand between the knob of the bat," Hargrove said. "He had a little bit of a bruise there. It looked like the start of a blood blister, but he'll be all right."

Plate umpire John Shulock initially ruled a foul ball before awarding Batista first base. Hargrove did a little campaigning on Batista's behalf.

"I told him that bruise wasn't there to begin with," Hargrove said.

Bigbie beefs up

Before returning home last season, Larry Bigbie was given some specific instructions by the Orioles. The general message: get stronger.

Anyone who questions whether he paid attention hasn't been doing so this spring.

"Larry Bigbie has really gone from being a gangly kid to swinging the bat like a man," Hargrove said.

He's carrying around some grown-up numbers this spring, including a .357 average in 28 at-bats.

Bigbie spent much of his off-season in the weight room, dedicating himself to a total body workout six days a week from late November until shortly before reporting to camp. He left the Dominican Winter League early to begin training, though he knew the Orioles were planning to send him to Triple-A Rochester.

"My goal coming into spring training was to put myself in position to be stronger and more confident," said Bigbie, who gained around 10 pounds. "I did a lot of cardiovascular and was eating right. It's a lot easier when you go home to your mom and she has everything ready for you to eat."

Bigbie has been told that he'll play all three outfield positions at Rochester, though most of his innings likely will come in left and right.

Segui ready to return

Hargrove said he expects first baseman David Segui to return from a strained Achilles' tendon by tomorrow's game against the Montreal Expos.

Segui hasn't played since leaving a March 15 game against the Mets in the third inning. He was injured running out a ground ball.

Hargrove suggested last week that he might hold out Segui and center fielder Chris Singleton, who's bothered by the same injury, until Opening Day. But Segui hoped to appear in two or three more games before Opening Day.

Singleton's condition is improving, but it's unknown when he'll return.

Around the horn

The Orioles are expected to make a few more cuts today or tomorrow. ... The Orioles began yesterday with the two saves leaders among American League teams. Jorge Julio and Willis Roberts were tied for first with three each. Julio's 10 appearances were tied for second with Oakland's Billy Koch.

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