Batista takes seat, for a change


Third baseman gets break after 170 straight games

August 12, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

DETROIT - Orioles manager Mike Hargrove decided it was time to give third baseman Tony Batista a break yesterday, ending Batista's streak of 170 consecutive games played.

Batista's production has dropped off since the All-Star break. Batting .269 with 19 home runs and 53 RBIs at the break, he has hit .224 with two homers and 12 RBIs since.

"I felt like Tony has been a little tired," Hargrove said. "His legs have looked weak the last four or five days. I tried to give him a day off as the DH in Toronto [last Monday], and that didn't work real well. With the off day [today], he'll have two days off."

Batista said he understood Hargrove's reasoning.

On Saturday, Batista committed his 15th error of the season when a ball rolled between his legs. When he came to the plate in the eighth inning, he had been hitless in his first seven at-bats of the series and had gone the previous six games without an RBI.

But Batista delivered the game-winning hit, a run-scoring single that found the hole between shortstop and third base.

"I think that error just happened; it's not because I was tired," Batista said. "I just have to do my job. Sometimes I make errors, sometimes I strike out. Then I got that hit, and that's why I don't think I'm tired."

Hentgen getting stronger

Orioles vice president for baseball operations Syd Thrift went to watch Pat Hentgen's rehabilitation start with Single-A Delmarva on Saturday and liked what he saw.

Hentgen, who is recovering from ligament-replacement surgery in his right elbow, threw 70 pitches, holding Augusta to one run on four hits. Hentgen's fastball was at 85 mph two weeks ago in Sarasota, Fla., and Thrift said it was consistently 86 mph this time, with one pitch clocked at 89.

"His delivery was real good," Thrift said. "His command was good, especially the first four innings. His cut fastball was good, and so was his curveball. He really had four pitches last night. He did a very good job."

Hentgen is scheduled to pitch every five days through the end of the month, making stops at each level of the Orioles' minor-league system, before rejoining the team in September.

Prospects watch

Three players in the Orioles' minor-league system were recognized in Baseball America's "tools of the trade" survey.

Single-A Delmarva's Rommie Lewis was rated the best reliever in the South Atlantic League. Double-A Bowie outfielder Keith Reed, a former No. 1 draft pick, was credited with having the best outfield arm in the Eastern League. His injured teammate, Erik Bedard, was voted the best pitching prospect.

Comerica difficulties

With its huge outfield dimensions, Comerica Park certainly isn't very hitter-friendly. Alex Rodriguez lost two home runs here last week and came away saying he couldn't have hit the ball any better. Orioles outfielder Gary Matthews said he felt the same way after hitting a 395-foot out on Friday night.

But the deep fences aren't the only reason runs are down at Comerica. During this weekend's series, Hargrove and Tigers hitting coach Merv Rettenmund both said it's difficult for the hitters to see for the first three innings of a night game, as the sun reflects off the buildings beyond center field.

Watching from the dugout, Hargrove was unable to track the ball leaving Melvin Mora's bat when he hit leadoff singles in each of the first two games.

"I saw the fielders going for it, but I didn't see the ball," he said. "I'm glad they've got that [protective dugout screen]. You just stay behind that."

Sun staff writer Roch Kubatko contributed to this article.

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