Look out pitchers, Sosa is coming to town in '03

Brewers, Phils also to visit as schedule is announced

September 28, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

With the interleague format undergoing another change, one of baseball's most prolific home run hitters will visit Camden Yards for the first time next year.

The Orioles' 2003 schedule, which they released yesterday, includes a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs. Sammy Sosa began yesterday needing only two homers to reach 500 for his career and become the first player to hit 50 in five seasons.

"It's always good to have those kinds of players coming here," pitcher Rodrigo Lopez said. "He's one of the best batters in the game, but I'd just have to take him as another hitter and try to get him out. It's like facing [Jason] Giambi or anyone else."

Lopez has past experience with record-chasing sluggers. He faced Mark McGwire three times while pitching for the San Diego Padres in 2000. McGwire walked in his first at-bat before striking out twice.

Asked if he was intrigued by having Sosa in town, manager Mike Hargrove said, "If he was playing for me, I would be."

With teams from the American League East paired against the National League Central next season, the Orioles also will play host to the Milwaukee Brewers June 13-15 and travel to Houston June 3-5 and St. Louis June 6-8. The view will seem familiar to the Brewers, who switched leagues in 1998.

The Philadelphia Phillies return to Camden Yards June 27-29, but the Orioles won't be heading up Interstate 95 to play them at Veterans Stadium. Instead, the Orioles will face the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field June 20-22.

They'll open the season at home again, playing the Cleveland Indians on March 31. Their first six games take place in Baltimore, including three against the Boston Red Sox, beginning April 4, before traveling to Tampa Bay to start a 10-day trip.

As usual, the Orioles will get their fill of the Devil Rays early, playing them seven times in April. They don't see the New York Yankees until June 30.

Rather than having the All-Star break during the second week of July, the Orioles must wait until the 14th-16th. They won't play on Memorial Day or Labor Day for the second straight year.

The longest homestand will last nine games - June 10 to 19 vs. the Cubs, Brewers and Toronto Blue Jays; June 27 to July 6 vs. the Phillies, Yankees and Toronto; and Sept. 2 to 10 vs. the Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners and Red Sox.

The longest road trip, which spans Aug. 22 to 31 and involves a cross-country flight, will last 10 days and consist of games against the Yankees, Oakland and Seattle.

Next year's schedule also will include three home-and-home series each against the club's four division rivals. The Anaheim Angels and Texas Rangers come to Camden Yards twice, and the Orioles make two stops in Oakland and Seattle.

The Orioles will close the season with four games in Boston and three in New York.

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