Now faster, Bigbie in running to stay

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Call-up impresses club in 1st week

Segui return looms

Lopez tries again

April 30, 2003|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

DETROIT - Larry Bigbie has made another strong impression with the Orioles since being promoted from Triple-A Ottawa last week, and there's a growing chance he will remain with the club when David Segui comes off the disabled list Saturday.

"We'll see how he does between now and Saturday," Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said before last night's 11-3 win.

Bigbie, 25, started his fifth straight game in left field last night. The Orioles have kept with their philosophy that their top prospects need to play regularly, regardless of what level they're at.

Bigbie was batting .333 with five doubles, three triples, two home runs and 12 RBIs at Ottawa. A 1-for-5 outing last night dropped his Orioles average to .235 after he had three hits in his first eight at-bats.

Hargrove said Bigbie still makes "young-kid mistakes" at the plate, but he has really been impressed with Bigbie's speed. A year ago, Bigbie missed a month with a sprained left ankle, and he was slowed with shin splints during spring training.

Last night, he singled in his first at-bat and stole second. He also crashed into the left-center-field wall making a running catch to rob Carlos Pena of extra bases in the fourth inning.

"I really don't think I've seen him run better," Hargrove said.

Streak ends for Ligtenberg

When Orioles reliever Kerry Ligtenberg pitches, hitters can pretty much leave their batting helmets and the elbow armor in the dugout. He made 262 appearances in the big leagues spanning 278 innings before hitting his first batter with a pitch.

The streak finally ended Saturday at Tampa Bay, when Ligtenberg threw a pitch that grazed Toby Hall's sleeve. Ligtenberg said he's not even sure the pitch hit Hall, but the umpire still awarded him first base.

"I didn't know anything about [the streak]," said Ligtenberg, who spent his first six major league seasons with the Atlanta Braves. "You've got to pitch in sometimes. You don't want to make a mistake over the plate. ... In Atlanta we had a different philosophy."

The Braves, under pitching coach Leo Mazzone, teach their pitchers to live mostly on the outside part of the strike zone. Former Brave Tom Glavine perfected the art, and the strategy has worked for Ligtenberg, too.

His career ERA entering this season was 3.04.

SARS briefing

Orioles trainer Richie Bancells briefed the team yesterday about the precautions planned for the team's coming trips to Toronto, where a recent SARS outbreak caused the World Health Organization to warn against non-essential travel.

WHO lifted that warning yesterday, and the Blue Jays sold out SkyDome with a $1 ticket promotion. The Orioles play in Toronto on June 23-26, July 25-27 and Sept. 12-14.

Major league trainers held a conference call on prevention measures yesterday. Bancells took part and then instructed the Orioles to keep washing their hands and avoid densely populated places, such as nightclubs.

Wiley: Lopez not `pressing'

Rodrigo Lopez is winless in his past seven starts, including his final two from last season, when he finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting.

He'll take a 7.31 ERA to the mound tonight, and the Orioles need to get their Opening Day starter untracked.

"I wouldn't say he's pressing," Orioles pitching coach Mark Wiley said. "He's really not that kind of guy. He wants to win a game, I know that, but I don't see any problems. I don't see any reason why he won't rattle off a few in a row here. He's totally capable of doing that."

Lopez is throwing as hard this year as last year. His fastball regularly hits 93 mph. Wiley said Lopez needs to keep the ball down more consistently, and they've worked on correcting his arm angle for when he throws his slider. The blister that affected earlier in the month appears to have healed.

In his last start, Lopez was in line for his fourth loss but took a no-decision after giving up four runs in six innings against the Chicago White Sox. "I thought he was more like himself," Wiley said.

Starting nine for Mora

Melvin Mora was in the starting lineup for the ninth consecutive game last night. This time he was back at shortstop. In this stretch, he has also started at all three outfield positions and second base.

Hargrove said he's riding the hot hand offensively. Mora had two hits in three trips last night, giving him 14 in 38 at-bats (.368), including four home runs and 10 RBIs.

"I don't see him trying to lift the ball as much as he did last year," Hargrove said. "His swing's a lot shorter than it was last year at times. In other words, he's not trying to hit everything out of the park."

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