Gibbons' light bat has heavy impact

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

To help wrist, he changes bats for first 2-HR game

Conine's return delayed

Notebook

July 04, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

ANAHEIM, Calif. - Orioles first baseman Jay Gibbons has been bothered with a sore right wrist in recent weeks, and that's one reason his home run production has lagged behind last year's level.

Gibbons had his first career two-homer game in Tuesday night's 3-0 victory over the Anaheim Angels, and he said the key was swinging a lighter bat that made it easier on the wrist.

Last season, Gibbons had 15 home runs in 225 at-bats before breaking the hamate bone in his right hand and damaging cartilage in the wrist. He underwent surgery in August and is still feeling the effects. He entered last night with 14 home runs in 252 at-bats.

"The last month and a half, it's been touch and go," Gibbons said. "It's nothing I can't play with, but I could do without it. When the season started, I'd get a little pain here and there. And they told me it'd be 18 months before I'd be 100 percent, so I'm not worried about it."

This trip to Anaheim brought Gibbons back to his hometown of Lakewood, Calif. He went into his closet, and grabbed one of the 32-ounce bats he was swinging last season. This year, he had been swinging 33-ounce and 33 1/2 -ounce models.

"With the wrist being a little tender," Gibbons said, "it's probably not the best thing for me to have a heavy bat right now."

Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said he noticed an improvement in Gibbons' swing at batting practice Tuesday.

"As much as Jay denies trying to hit the ball out of the park, the swings I've seen him take, the approach I've seen him take tells me that's on his mind," Hargrove said. "And [Tuesday] he had a whole different, quieter approach. He didn't overswing."

Conine has setback

The Orioles were hoping Jeff Conine might be ready to come off the disabled list tomorrow in Texas, but it's looking more and more like they will wait until after the All-Star break.

"We tried to up the intensity of his workout [Tuesday], and it just didn't go well," Hargrove said. "I would be surprised if he's ready to play [today]. If we get to Texas, and he hasn't played, I don't know that the risk is worth him playing one game before the All-Star break. We can give him three days in Texas, and three days for the break, and be sure this thing's healed."

Gil stays in lineup

Orioles catcher Geronimo Gil jammed his right shoulder when he slipped on the rubber warning track behind home plate Tuesday night, and Hargrove said Gil might have to miss two or three games. But Gil was back in the lineup last night.

"He insists he feels fine," Hargrove said.

Lopez makes adjustments

Rodrigo Lopez tossed seven shutout innings Tuesday, allowing four hits, but he later called it the toughest game he has pitched this season. Lopez walked five batters and hit one, but he came away with his second win in his past nine starts.

Like his batterymate Gil, Lopez took a spill, trying to deliver a first-inning pitch to Darin Erstad. After the game, Lopez smiled when asked about the embarrassing moment.

"That's happened about three or four times in my career," Lopez said. "With a runner on first, I think I tried to go too quick to home plate, and my spike got stuck in the dirt. I had to throw the ball, so I didn't make a balk."

Around the horn

Infielder Mike Moriarty cleared waivers and was outrighted off the Orioles' 40-man roster. He remains at Triple-A Rochester. ... The Orioles signed sixth-round draft pick John Maine, a pitcher from UNC-Charlotte, and seventh-round pick Paul Henry, a pitcher from Ball State. They still haven't signed their first three picks. ... Cal Ripken and Bill Ripken have a new CD-ROM, featuring baseball instruction. To order, call 1-800-367-2828.

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