Hairston hits bottom in revamped lineup

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Leadoff hitter dropped to 9th spot

Singleton sits

April 18, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - Orioles manager Mike Hargrove revamped the top of his batting order last night, bumping leadoff hitter Jerry Hairston to the ninth spot and keeping No. 2 hitter Chris Singleton on the bench.

Hargrove kept hot-hitting Melvin Mora atop the lineup, moving him to center field in place of Singleton, and moved Mike Bordick from ninth in the order to second.

The changes came as Hairston returned to the lineup after missing five games with a strained left groin. He entered last night's game batting .156. Singleton is hitting .102.

The change didn't help Hairston last night. He went 0-for-3, dropping his batting average to .143.

"To be honest with you," Hairston said, "if I were to make out the lineup, obviously I'd hit Melvin first. Melvin's done a tremendous job in the leadoff spot, and hopefully he keeps doing it."

Mora, 1-for-3 last night with a walk, entered the game second in the American League in on-base percentage at .537. Hairston, meanwhile, had posted a .206 on-base percentage as the leadoff hitter for the first eight games.

Hairston spent much of last season batting ninth, but the Orioles went into the off-season hoping he would emerge as their everyday leadoff hitter. He posted a .400 on-base percentage during spring training but struggled once the regular season began.

"Jerry is going to be the leadoff hitter; we'll just play the string out with Melvin," Hargrove said. "Obviously, if Melvin continues this, then Melvin's going to stay there, but we haven't given up the idea that Jerry will be our leadoff hitter."

Said Hairston: "Grover doesn't need to explain anything to me. I've always told him, since the beginning of spring training, `You can put me anywhere you want.' I just want to be in the lineup. I'm going to approach it the same way. I just want to get on base."

Hairston is still hitting the ball in the air more than the Orioles would like, but he said he has kept the overall approach that he had during spring training.

Hargrove said Hairston's swing has a tendency to get too long, so Hairston worked on shortening the swing during yesterday's early batting practice.

Overall, Hargrove said, "Jerry's made huge improvements over his approach to hitting between last year and this year."

As for Singleton, Hargrove pointed to last season, when Singleton was playing for the Chicago White Sox and hit .192 in April and .355 in May.

Singleton finished the year batting .298.

"He's a notorious slow starter," Hargrove said, "and he certainly hasn't done anything to change that this year. With veteran hitters, you have to let them have room, and show them the patience to allow their strokes to come around.

"Ninety-nine percent of the time it will. There's always the time it won't, but you've got to play the string out and allow them that chance. That's why track records are so valuable. There's a fine line between being patient and being foolish, and I don't think that we're really close to being foolish yet."

Johnson improves

Orioles pitcher Jason Johnson said he thinks his dead arm came to life yesterday.

After struggling in his past two starts and chalking it up to arm fatigue, Johnson said he felt much stronger throwing in his between-starts bullpen session.

"It feels like it was 100 percent, and I'm banking on it staying that way," Johnson said. "I had pain throwing on the side last time. But it's not an injury, it's just dead arm. It's no big deal and it's gone, hopefully."

Around the bases

Hargrove said reliever Jorge Julio was not available to pitch last night. Julio had appeared in three straight games and recorded the final five outs to get his first major-league save Tuesday. ... After designating third catcher Fernando Lunar for assignment, the Orioles are still hoping to trade him, with the Texas Rangers and Colorado Rockies among the potential suitors. If no team shows interest, the Orioles will hope he clears waivers, and only then would they be able to send him to Triple-A Rochester.

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