Crowded outfield leaves Singleton as odd man out

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

His O's fate unclear in '03

top draft pick Loewen registers at junior college

Notebook

August 21, 2002|By Roch Kubatko and Joe Christensen | Roch Kubatko and Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

The shuffling inside the Orioles' clubhouse isn't confined to the card tables.

Manager Mike Hargrove made more changes to his outfield last night, returning Chris Singleton to the bench and starting Melvin Mora in center field. Gary Matthews, who didn't appear in Monday's 7-3 loss to Tampa Bay, started in right field, and Marty Cordova went to left.

"I'll play it day by day," Hargrove said. "I don't believe in rotations. The only rotation we'll have is with the pitchers."

Singleton's chances of playing were reduced with the Devil Rays starting left-hander Joe Kennedy, but Jay Gibbons remained in as the designated hitter despite batting from the left side. He went 0-for-4.

With shortstop Mike Bordick off the disabled list, Mora is thrown into the outfield mix but remains a regular presence in the lineup because he's the club's leadoff hitter. He's part of a logjam that must be addressed after the season.

Singleton, who's eligible for arbitration, might not fit into the club's plans in 2003 after only one season with the Orioles. The crowd will thicken once prospects Luis Matos and Larry Bigbie contend for jobs next spring, and Chris Richard is cleared to play the outfield. Singleton, who hasn't started four of the past six games, could be traded or released.

"I'd imagine something's got to give," he said. "It's not something I think about a whole lot. You kind of let things run their course.

"I've got more upside than downside as far as my career goes, and I think they know that. I've shown the last couple years what I'm capable of doing, where some of the guys here are just starting to play and [the Orioles] want to see what they can do and weigh it from there."

Players must pass through waivers before being traded, and must be acquired by Aug. 31 to be included on the postseason roster. Singleton expects the Aug. 30 strike date to limit personnel moves.

"A lot of things are on hold," he said.

The starting center fielder on Opening Day, Singleton batted .341 in May after a .165 April. He now is hitting .250 with seven homers and 41 RBIs in 109 games. "Obviously it's tough when you don't play for a few days," he said.

Loewen changes course

Orioles first-round draft pick Adam Loewen has turned down a scholarship offer from Arizona State and registered for classes at Chipola Junior College in Marianna, Fla. Though the two sides have had discussions this week, Loewen remains unsigned, and the Orioles will lose Loewen's rights if he attends a class.

By picking a junior college instead of a four-year university, Loewen would be eligible to re-enter the draft next season instead of having to wait until 2005.

Reached by phone yesterday in British Columbia, Al Loewen said his son is on a camping trip and needs to make a decision by early next week. Classes at Chipola started Monday, but he is waiting before making a final decision.

"If by some chance this doesn't get done [with the Orioles], he'd rather be back in the draft in a year rather than three years," Al Loewen said. "I know they [the Orioles] are busy, and I know the looming strike is definitely playing a part. We're very optimistic. Adam wants to go to Baltimore, and I think Baltimore wants him to be there, too."

Shortly after making Loewen the fourth overall pick in the June draft, the Orioles offered him a $2 million signing bonus. Loewen, widely regarded as the top high school pitcher in the draft, is seeking closer to $4.5 million.

"He has to make a decision," said Orioles vice president for baseball operations Syd Thrift, "on whether he wants to take a lot of money or go to school."

Stay put, young man

Hargrove has indicated that Rick Bauer will remain in the bullpen this season, where he has made 45 appearances with the Orioles. But his role could change in 2003.

A starter for most of his minor-league career, Bauer has developed into a valuable right-handed middle- and late-inning reliever since rejoining the team April 16. He got the win Aug. 14 with four scoreless innings in Minnesota, and has allowed five earned runs in his last 25 innings (1.80 ERA).

"I don't think anybody has dismissed the idea of him being a starter," Hargrove said. "He fits a very vital spot for us now and we're trying to win ballgames."

Hargrove hasn't named his starters for Saturday's doubleheader, and Bauer could be a candidate.

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