Nabbing Suzuki on steal adds to Gil's rookie thrills

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

MVP had 56 thefts in '01

W. Roberts goes strong 4

May 26, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

SEATTLE - Orioles catcher Geronimo Gil has had a lot of thrills as a rookie this season, and throwing out Seattle Mariners speedster Ichiro Suzuki on an attempted stolen base Friday night ranks right near the top.

Suzuki had been successful on 15 of his first 19 attempts this season, but when he tried running after drawing a nine-pitch walk to start the third inning, the Orioles nabbed him.

Scott Erickson, who has one of the Orioles' quickest deliveries to home plate, threw a fastball to Mark McLemore, and Gil threw a strike to shortstop Mike Bordick at second base. Bordick barely had to move his glove to apply the tag.

Gil said he was happy with the play because "Ichiro's a very good runner, and he stole a lot of bases last year."

Suzuki, in fact, led the American League with 56 stolen bases last year en route to being named Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player.

Gil went 0-for-4 last night but is still hitting .280 with seven home runs and 24 RBIs. He won the starting job over Brook Fordyce during spring training, and Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said the team didn't know what to expect of Gil offensively.

"That's a tough question because he's never played in the big leagues, so you don't know what to expect," Hargrove said. "He's a big, strong guy, so you would think that he would have power. I certainly don't think anybody expects Geronimo to hit 35 home runs, or 40 home runs, but it'd be great if he did."

Defensively, Gil has made the Orioles respectable against the running game, throwing out 28 percent (eight of 29) of opposing base stealers, including another one last night. A year ago, Fordyce threw out just 19 percent (21 of 110).

"A lot of Gil's little mechanical things have improved," Orioles first base coach and catching specialist Rick Dempsey said. "He just has a good temperament for that position. If the pitchers can continue to get it to home plate like Erickson did last night, he could throw out close to 50 percent of the runners."

Four awful at-bats

Orioles designated hitter Marty Cordova struck out in all four of his at-bats Friday. In fact, he only made contact once, fouling off a pitch for strike two in the fourth inning against Mariners starter Freddy Garcia.

It was a rough night, especially considering Cordova is a strong two-strike hitter and entered the game batting .315. As recently as May 5, he was batting .367. Last night he had another strikeout in an 0-for-4 night that dropped his average to .295.

Hargrove shrugged off Cordova's four-strikeout night as an aberration.

"I don't think we can realistically expect Marty to hit .350 all year, or .360," Hargrove said. "I'm not saying he can't do it, but I think we have to be realistic with our expectations."

Cordova is a lifetime .278 hitter.

"We expect a lot out of each other," Hargrove said. "But he's never hit that high before, so to expect him to hit .350 all year long - and when he doesn't do it, to say, `What's wrong with this guy?' - I think it's the wrong tack to take."

Four great innings

Orioles reliever Willis Roberts turned in his longest outing of the season Friday, tossing four scoreless innings after Erickson came out of the game in the fifth, to lower his ERA to 2.28.

Roberts has seemed to be a pitcher in search of a role this season, but Hargrove still likes his potential.

"I'd like to see him be a drop-dead, slam-dunk setup guy," Hargrove said. "It's a very valuable role, and I'd like him to progress to be very consistent in that role. With his stuff, if he can do that, it opens the door for other possibilities."

Proud papas

Orioles bullpen coach Sam Perlozzo and trainer Richie Bancells returned home after Thursday's game in Oakland to attend their respective son's graduation ceremonies. Eric Perlozzo was named the exemplary male student at Bishop Walsh High in Cumberland, and Chris Bancells graduated from the University of Maryland. Bancells returned for Friday night's game, and Perlozzo returned last night.

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