Orioles send B. Roberts back to Triple-A

Infielder was batting .234

team buys contract of L. Lopez from Rochester

July 13, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

With his offense tailing off and his confidence lowered, Orioles infielder Brian Roberts was optioned to Triple-A Rochester before last night's game against the Oakland Athletics, restoring Jerry Hairston to regular duty at second base and introducing another new player to the clubhouse at Camden Yards.

The Orioles purchased the contract of infielder Luis Lopez, who was batting .324 in 17 games at Rochester after beginning the season in the Milwaukee Brewers' organization. As Lopez moved into his locker near the back entrance, Roberts quickly packed his belongings into a duffel bag and declined to speak with reporters.

"I'd rather not if you don't mind," he said.

Roberts was recalled May 21 and started 26 games at second base. He led off six times, a position relinquished by Hairston earlier in the season, but he fell into a 2-for-22 slump before being sent down.

As he continued to struggle, manager Mike Hargrove began platooning him with Hairston. The switch-hitting Roberts was batting .162 against left-handers, and .234 overall. He was 9-for-11 in stolen base attempts.

"We all like Brian a lot, and we're all of the opinion that Brian at some point and time is going to be a very good major-league player. But the last two or three weeks, Brian has really been scuffling," Hargrove said. "We just felt like for him to have a chance to be the best player he can be at the earliest possible moment, he needs to play and have success where he's playing, and we felt Rochester was the best option.

"I think he took it hard. Anybody who has any pride in what they're doing and wants to be a big-league player, when they get sent down it's not going to be an easy thing to hear or agree with. But once it's all said and done, Brian will recognize this is the best thing for him. Brian brings a lot of good things to the party, but he needs to believe in himself as much as everybody else believes in him."

Lopez, 31, has spent parts of nine seasons in the majors with the San Diego Padres, the New York Mets and the Brewers. He stayed with the Brewers for the entire 2001 season, batting .270 in 92 games while splitting time at second base, third base and shortstop. He mostly played second at Rochester.

The Brewers placed Lopez on the disabled list coming out of spring training with a sore quadriceps muscle, though Lopez referred to it as a "phantom injury" that freed up space on Milwaukee's 25-man roster. Lopez requested his release after being activated and signed with Rochester, appearing in his first game June 18.

"I was just working my way up at Triple-A," said Lopez, a career .249 hitter in 1,388 at-bats before this season. "There's no place like the big leagues, and after being in the big leagues for so long and having a little taste of Triple-A again, it makes you wonder. But things happen for a reason, and hopefully this was a wake-up call, even though it wasn't my fault what happened [in Milwaukee]."

The Orioles had room on their 40-man roster for Lopez after infielder Mike Moriarty cleared waivers last week and was outrighted to Rochester.

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