Quick trip to minors makes major impression on Segui

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Giving thanks for return, he goes 1-for-3 vs. Red Sox

Baseball

April 06, 2003|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

One game at the Single-A level was enough to convince the Orioles of David Segui's readiness to come off the disabled list. And it was enough to remind Segui how badly he wanted to play in the majors.

Segui singled in four at-bats during Friday's opener for the Frederick Keys, part of an injury rehab assignment that lasted about as long as the buzz from the Orioles' Opening Day victory. He was activated yesterday and went 1-for-3 while batting seventh against Boston's Pedro Martinez.

"It's his first time back and Pedro's throwing today, so I just put him in the seven hole," said manager Mike Hargrove.

Segui suffered a displaced fracture of his right thumb before a March 12 exhibition game in Fort Myers, Fla. Once projected to miss at least seven weeks, he swung without pain from both sides during batting practices and pushed for an early return.

The Orioles wanted to give Segui some meaningful at-bats before activating him. Hitting exclusively from the left side, he singled in his final plate appearance on Friday after scorching a ball in the first inning that the wind knocked down. Segui conceded he's still rusty and must work to regain his timing.

"Physically, I felt good," he said.

The cold, blustery conditions were only part of Segui's challenge in Frederick. He also noted the poor lighting and busy background, where advertisements line the fence and can wreck a hitter's concentration.

Welcome to the minors.

Segui said facing live pitching is beneficial after a long layoff, "if you can see it."

"I'd get released in a week if I played there," he joked.

The Orioles plan to hold onto him a lot longer. They need him healthy and in the lineup, where he'll eventually move up to third.

"When David's on his game, he gives us another bat that they have to worry about," Hargrove said. "What you'd like with your lineup is the pitcher trying to pick who it is he's going to pitch to, and to make those choices real difficult. David in the lineup makes those choices more difficult."

To make room for Segui, the Orioles sent infielder Jose Leon to Triple-A Ottawa. He was 1-for-4 in his only start, which came during Thursday's game against the Cleveland Indians. Leon batted .415 this spring to beat out veteran John Valentin.

"I don't know that we think that he's absolutely, totally just a utility player," Hargrove said. "I think he showed enough this spring to allow some of us to start thinking that maybe this kid can play every day."

Asked if Leon will be used exclusively at third base, Hargrove said, "He can play first, too. He can play a lot of positions. The big thing now is getting at-bats."

Talk surprises Timlin

Mike Timlin doesn't understand the fuss.

Part of the Red Sox's revamped bullpen, Timlin wonders why so much attention has been given to the team's committee approach to closing games.

"It seems to be a huge thing," he said. "I don't know why everyone's making such a big deal of it now when Cincinnati did it a couple years ago and everything worked out fine.

"It's a fine arrangement. We're all trying to settle in. Everybody's talking about, `Well, you don't have a defined role.' It's OK. We're all relievers. That's a defined role for us. You don't know when you're going to pitch, and that keeps you on the edge. For most relievers, that's where we all live."

The Red Sox must avoid the falls. Their bullpen lost again yesterday, with Chad Fox walking in the winning run.

Timlin is making his first visit to Camden Yards since the Orioles traded him to the St. Louis Cardinals in July 2000 for outfielder Chris Richard and minor league pitcher Mark Nussbeck.

"I liked playing here," he said. "I remember a lot of the people who worked here, and still work here, and guys that I played with and played for. I enjoyed working for Hargrove, and anybody who leaves here and comes back is going to see Elrod [Hendricks]."

Aim was off; appetite OK

Orioles closer Jorge Julio devoured a meal of shrimp and rice after yesterday's game. It was the only time he could find the plate.

Julio, in his first save chance since Aug. 15, walked four batters to force in the tying run in the ninth inning.

"I was trying to focus and throw strikes," he said, "and I couldn't."

Hargrove was trying to relax. "Your stomach's up around your hairline," he said.

Around the horn

Former Orioles manager Johnny Oates watched yesterday's game from a luxury box with friends from Richmond, Va. Oates, who continues to battle brain cancer, was in town to receive a checkup at Johns Hopkins Hospital. ... More than 10,000 tickets were distributed to Maryland Safety Patrol students.

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