Hargrove sits Singleton again, but says he's still No. 1 in center


Matthews platoon denied despite recent shuffling


April 27, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said Chris Singleton is still the team's primary center fielder, even though Singleton started last night's game on the bench again in favor of Gary Matthews Jr.

Hargrove has been trying to get Matthews playing time while giving Singleton a chance to break out of his early slump.

Last night's move was especially poignant because it represented the second time in five games Matthews had started in center field with the Orioles facing a right-handed pitcher.

Singleton is a left-handed batter whose best matchups come against right-handed pitchers. Matthews is a switch-hitter.

"Chris Singleton is our center fielder," Hargrove said. "And we certainly need to get him untracked and swinging the bat the way he can."

The Orioles acquired Matthews from the New York Mets on April 3 for left-handed reliever John Bale. Matthews, who went 0-for-3 with a walk last night to fall 30 points to .231, is considered a five-tool talent who has yet to hit his stride.

But the Orioles are paying Singleton $1.4 million this season after getting him from the Chicago White Sox for second base prospect Willie Harris.

"Obviously, it's not a great feeling," Singleton said. "But Gary's been swinging the bat well and he deserves a chance to play. Everybody's got a job to do. Grover's got a job to do, trying to win ballgames. He's got to play the guys who give us the best chance to win."

Singleton entered last night's game as a pinch hitter in the seventh inning and tied the score with an infield single. A single later lifted his average to .157, a one-night gain of 25 points.

It continued a recent two-hit pattern. Singleton had two hits on Saturday but was back on the bench Sunday. He had two hits again Tuesday but started Wednesday's game on the bench.

"It kind of throws you a little bit," Singleton said. "You get going and you want to keep that mind-set. It makes it more challenging, but I've overcome a lot of things in my life."

Singleton's swing became noticeably long during his season-opening stretch when he had five hits in his first 55 at-bats.

"I think there is progress being made," Hargrove said.

Hargrove said he doesn't see putting Singleton and Matthews into a platoon - for now.

"I'm not going to say I can't see that happening," he said. "But it's not happening now. If we're still doing this in June or July, then you might have to make more dramatic measures."

Gibbons not listed

The All-Star ballots are out, and Orioles right fielder Jay Gibbons is not listed. The Orioles submitted Marty Cordova, Singleton and Jeff Conine as their starting outfield, since there is no designated hitter spot on the ballot and those three are veterans.

Gibbons leads the Orioles with seven home runs, but fans will have to write him in.

His field of choice

As the winner of a MasterCard promotion last year, Louisiana native Joey Dockins had his choice of inviting friends and family to play a game at any major-league ballpark. Dockins, 35, chose Camden Yards and will play his game tomorrow.

Orioles tonight

Opponent:Kansas City Royals

Site:Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Mo.


TV/Radio:Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Sidney Ponson (0-2, 6.08) vs. Royals' Paul Byrd (4-0, 2.22)

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