In Mazzilli's eyes, pitchers are a hit

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Team's new manager is pleased with what he sees in spring training

Baseball

February 27, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Lee Mazzilli heard about the collection of live arms he inherited as manager of the Orioles.

A week into spring training, he's learning what the fuss was about.

The pitchers usually are ahead of the hitters this time of year, but that's especially true in the Orioles' camp, where mismatches were prevalent on the back fields.

"It's not fun to hit off the pitchers right now," Mazzilli said, "especially today when it's real windy."

Mazzilli stood behind one of the batting cages yesterday and marveled at Adam Loewen, 19, who has no chance of making the team in 2004 but continues to make an impression.

Erik Bedard, coming off ligament-transplant surgery in his left elbow, also got noticed, as did Rick Bauer, the multi-purpose reliever who one day might crack the rotation.

"The guys are on target. Their arms feel good. It's encouraging," Mazzilli said.

Pitcher Matt Riley, who sprained his right ankle two days before reporting to spring training, is scheduled to throw today.

Gibbons happy in right

Jay Gibbons looks around the clubhouse, notices Rafael Palmeiro - and the absence of Vladimir Guerrero - and is reminded how much he wants to stay in right field.

Gibbons knew the Orioles were pursuing Guerrero during the winter before he rejected their six-year, $78 million offer and signed with the Anaheim Angels. Palmeiro already had returned to the organization, leaving Gibbons to wonder during the Guerrero saga which glove he would use, or whether he would need one.

"I was just going to let it play out. I had no control over what was going to happen," he said. "It would have been interesting if we had gotten a couple of those guys, because I was wondering where I was going to play. I'm not ready to be a DH. That would have been the worst."

The additions of Palmeiro, shortstop Miguel Tejada and catcher Javy Lopez affected Gibbons in other ways. The clubhouse is crowded, but he has a little more room than usual.

"It really is a different feeling," he told reporters. "Already, I don't have to talk to you guys as much. You're over by their lockers, which is good."

McDonald `ready to go'

If Triple-A outfielder Darnell McDonald hadn't been injured last summer, he likely would have received his first major league promotion and made the Orioles feel better about taking him with the 26th pick in the 1997 draft.

If McDonald hadn't required arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder, he might be competing for a spot on the 25-man roster - or at least giving the impression that he had a chance.

But McDonald, who batted .296 with 20 RBIs in 40 games at Ottawa, still is receiving treatments on the shoulder and performing cuff-weight exercises as part of his rehabilitation.

Not wanting to give the impression yesterday that he isn't healthy, McDonald said: "I'm ready to go. It's a little sore, but as far as my throwing program, I've done everything I can do. Now it's just a matter of going out and testing it in games. But I'm not sure how much I'll be doing."

The injury crept up on McDonald, who woke up one morning and couldn't raise his arm. A magnetic resonance imaging test confirmed the tear.

"I was very disappointed because I thought last year was going to be my year," he said. "Now, at this point, it's just continuing where I left off and staying healthy."

No interest in A. Boone

A club official said the Orioles aren't interested in third baseman Aaron Boone, who was released by the New York Yankees yesterday.

Boone will miss the 2004 season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last month while playing basketball.

Mendez mending

Carlos Mendez did his usual work in the Venezuelan Winter League, which meant hitting for average and driving in runs. But he also had to deal with an injury that cost him 20 games.

Mendez sprained a ligament in his left wrist in November when a base runner slammed into his glove at first base as he took a throw. He returned to the field before fully recovering and batted .309 with three homers and 19 RBIs in 136 at-bats with Caracas.

Though his wrist is healed, Mendez probably will end up at the minor league camp in Sarasota before returning to Triple-A Ottawa, where he batted .347 with four homers and 42 RBIs in 61 games last year. He also made the majors for the first time, appearing in 26 games with the Orioles and hitting .222.

Sun staff writer Joe Christensen contributed to this article.

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