Rested 2 games, Hairston eager to get back to work

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Leg injuries, quiet bat open door for Moriarty

April 30, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

BOSTON -- Orioles second baseman Jerry Hairston hit .190 a year ago during April, and he thought that was bad.

This year, he started the season as the team's everyday leadoff hitter, struggled out of the gate, hurt himself and got pushed back to the No. 9 spot. To top it off, Orioles manager Mike Hargrove has kept Hairston out of the starting lineup the past two days in favor of rookie Mike Moriarty.

"I'm ready to go," Hairston said yesterday. "Maybe he wants to give Michael more opportunities, which is fine. I don't make out the lineup. Whenever I'm asked to go out there, I'll go."

Moriarty had one hit in five at-bats Sunday, a two-run double in the fourth inning. He was 1-for-4 with runners in scoring position, and he fell down trying to field a routine grounder in the first inning. Last night, Moriarty was 0-for-4 with a run batted in.

Hairston has been hobbled with nagging groin and hamstring injuries, and Hargrove said that played into his decision.

"I liked what I saw out of Mike Moriarty yesterday, and Jerry is nursing a little bit of a hamstring [injury]," Hargrove said. "I decided another day wouldn't hurt [Hairston] at all, and we just decided to just give [Moriarty] another shot.

"Jerry will be back in there [today]."

Hairston hit just .156 through the first eight games of the season, then missed five games with a strained left groin. He started getting some hits and raised his average to .222 in a four-game burst, but he enters today batting .206.

During spring training, the Orioles were thrilled with Hairston's progress, but at times he has reverted to his habits of swinging from the heels and not selecting the right pitch.

"Jerry is a good player," Hargrove said, "and when he pays attention to what it is that makes him good and stays true to that, Jerry can be very good."

On Saturday night, for instance, Hairston came up in the second inning with a runner on third and one out and struck out on four pitches against the Kansas City Royals' Paul Byrd.

Hairston said he wasn't seeing the ball very well in the twilight, and Byrd wound up getting out of the inning unscathed.

"I think Jerry gave that at-bat away," Hargrove said. "I don't think he purposely did it, obviously, but I think he gave it away. I think at a minimum, good hitters give away 150 at-bats out of 500 at-bats a season anyway.

"You go through those things, and especially with a young player, you want to see him learn from it."

Hairston, 25, said he already has learned a lot compared to last season.

"Melvin [Mora] was telling me, `Just think of all your line drives you've hit that didn't fall in. You'd be hitting .270 right now.' It doesn't matter how you start, it matters how you finish."

Top of the order

The Orioles went into the season hoping Hairston could be the everyday leadoff hitter and center fielder Chris Singleton could be the everyday No. 2 hitter, but their struggles have forced Hargrove to change course.

Hargrove has used Mora exclusively in the leadoff spot in Mora's past 14 games.

"I don't think we've dismissed the plan of Jerry being a leadoff hitter," Hargrove said. "It's just that Melvin has a [much higher] on-base percentage. If you want to call it riding the hot hand, that's what we're doing."

Hargrove said Gary Matthews Jr. likely will replace Singleton tonight with the Orioles facing left-hander Darren Oliver.

"It's not a true platoon situation," Hargrove said of the way he's using Singleton and Matthews. "But until Chris gets untracked, I'll use those matchups to give him a rest."

Around the horn

David Segui, who has missed the past three days with an injured left hand, probably will be in the lineup tonight, Hargrove said. ... Before the game Orioles closer Jorge Julio said the blister on his right index finger was fine and he allowed two hits but no runs in the ninth inning to gain his fourth save.

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