Thrift: Patience, not panic, helps offensive slumps

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Adding big hitter nice, but VP not seeking quick fix

April 15, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

CHICAGO - Orioles vice president for baseball operations Syd Thrift said yesterday he would like to add a big bat to the middle of the batting order. But the team's slow start and early offensive struggles haven't made him desperate.

"The most important thing when you're in a storm is to remain calm and not overreact to things," Thrift said before yesterday's 9-4 victory over the Chicago White Sox. "We have a plan. When we went into last winter, we knew exactly what things we needed to do, and we accomplished some of them, which is progress.

"You can't always accomplish everything you set out to do and still maintain the same fiscal responsibility. So $10 million here, and $10 million there is a huge difference.

"Now, what are your priorities and needs? One 30-home run, .300 hitter, in an ideal world. So he hits fourth. But, OK, where are they, and who are they? You know who they all are, but can you get any of them, and are they available? In most instances, they're not. And if one was available, it'd be more than $10 million."

Would one more slugger make a difference? Perhaps.

The Orioles were one hit away from winning in each of their eight losses. In every case, they brought the tying run to the plate in the eighth or ninth inning. In every case, the loss was by fewer than three runs, and the opponents' closer came on to earn the save.

In their three wins, the Orioles averaged 11.3 runs. Take away those games, and their batting averages look downright scary: Jerry Hairston (.087), Chris Singleton (.103), David Segui (.133), Jeff Conine (.188), Jay Gibbons (.292), Tony Batista (.185), Melvin Mora (.238), Geronimo Gil (.063) and Mike Bordick (.080).

"I think that everyone will agree that we have better hitters than they've produced," Thrift said. "I don't think anyone will argue that. It just happens that all of them, for various reasons, seem to struggle at the same time. Some are trying too hard, some are putting too much pressure on themselves, all these things.

"But you can't overreact."

In December, Orioles owner Peter Angelos vetoed a trade for Philadelphia Phillies third baseman Scott Rolen because he felt the Orioles would be giving up too much talent for a player who was said to be seeking a new 10-year, $150 million contract.

Baseball sources said another player the Orioles covet is Chicago White Sox right fielder Magglio Ordonez, but the White Sox have given no indication they would ever trade him.

Still, this illustrates the kind of player the Orioles are seeking and demonstrates how hard he'll be to find.

"We don't need to get somebody else like somebody already here," Thrift said. "Then you're just treading water."

Overall, Thrift continues to be encouraged with the Orioles' starting pitching, relief pitching and defense. The only discouraging thing has been the offense, but Thrift points to some relatively inexperienced players - Hairston, Singleton, Gil and Gibbons - still going through growing pains.

"You can make progress," Thrift said, "but it doesn't always show in the win-loss column."

Hairston update

Second baseman Hairston took batting practice, ran and took ground balls before yesterday's game. He has missed the past three games with a strained left groin, but plans on being back in the lineup soon.

"Hopefully [tomorrow] if everything goes well," Hairston said. "You never know, maybe I'll be in there [today] if I feel terrific."

Julio's wildness

Jorge Julio pitched another scoreless inning yesterday, his fifth in five appearances this season, but he almost decapitated two White Sox players in the process. Julio threw fastballs that buzzed right by the heads of Sandy Alomar and Royce Clayton, the latter one buckling Clayton onto his back.

"He was trying to throw 150 mph," manager Mike Hargrove said. "I don't know why. He was juiced today."

Around the horn

Designated hitter Marty Cordova had 23 walks last season with the Cleveland Indians, one for every 19.2 plate appearances. In three games with the Orioles, he has four walks, one for every 3.3 plate appearances. ... Reliever Rodrigo Lopez had retired 18 consecutive batters, stretching back to April 7, before Ordonez singled off him in the eighth inning.

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