O's hope Clark hits it off in first trip

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Career minor-leaguer called up in 11th season

McGuire sent packing

July 16, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

In his 11th season of professional baseball, Howie Clark finally will get his first glimpse of the majors. It may be fleeting, but at least he'll experience it.

The Orioles purchased Clark's contract from Triple-A Rochester yesterday and designated first baseman Ryan McGuire for assignment. With the exception of last season, Clark has remained in the organization since being chosen in the 27th round of the 1992 draft. He played in Mexico last year before resigning with the Orioles on Oct. 8 and returning to Rochester, where he led the International League with 117 hits and ranked sixth with a .330 average.

Though he has played five positions this season and became known in the minors for his versatility, Clark is expected to be used mostly as a designated and pinch hitter with the Orioles.

"Clark's been doing a good job down there," said manager Mike Hargrove. "We thought we needed a bat off the bench, a guy who can put the ball in play, and he made sense. How long he'll be here, I don't know."

A career .276 hitter in 2,805 minor-league at-bats before this season, Clark could return to Rochester once Jeff Conine is activated from the disabled list. "But for the time being, Howie will be here," Hargrove said, "and I think he's a good addition."

Clark, who had seven homers and 40 RBIs at Rochester, batted .371 in May and .349 in June. He played 53 games in right field, five in left, 16 at first base, seven at second, one at third and nine as the designated hitter.

"He's a scrappy player," said Jerry Hairston, a teammate in Double-A, Triple-A and in Venezuela. "Nobody plays the game harder than him. He's a very intelligent player. He doesn't have the best speed or the best power, but he can hit."

McGuire appeared in only 17 games after arriving on May 18, going 2-for-26 with two RBIs. His last start came Sunday.

He sensed that his tenure with the Orioles was ending. "I figured definitely once [Conine] came off," he said. "I haven't been swinging the bat very well. You want to be able to use everyone on the bench and I haven't been swinging the bat well. I'm sure that kind of hindered Grover a little bit."

If he clears waivers, McGuire likely will report to Rochester.

Conine's return hits delay

Conine's return after a month on the DL doesn't appear to be approaching as quickly as the Orioles had hoped.

Conine said he probably won't attempt to run the bases again until after the team returns from its two-game trip to Toronto, which begins tomorrow. He experienced enough discomfort on Thursday to resist any further attempts. He hasn't played since straining his right hamstring on June 14.

Hargrove said listing Conine's status as day-to-day "is probably a little optimistic."

Leading off again, Mora

After dropping to sixth Sunday, Melvin Mora returned to his leadoff spot.

Mora had 20 walks in April and posted a .455 on-base percentage. He had only 17 more walks before last night, and his on-base percentage slipped to .351.

"In his last few at-bats, Melvin's been a little more patient," Hargrove said. "We do not have another [leadoff] guy. You'd like to see Jerry fit into that role, but I'm not sure at this time that Jerry's ready for that, so Melvin's the logical guy."

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