Mazzilli plays field, looks for No. 2 hitter

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Bigbie, Mora and Matos in running

big factor is on-base percentage

Baseball

March 15, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT MYERS, Fla. - Before Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli decides on a No. 2 hitter, he wants to give Luis Matos a chance to persuade him.

Larry Bigbie batted second again yesterday in a 5-2 loss to the Boston Red Sox. Melvin Mora also is being considered for the role, but Mazzilli won't discount Matos.

"I've got Luis, I've got Melvin, I've got Bigbie," Mazzilli said. "Three guys who can really get on base."

That's the quality that most attracts Mazzilli.

"I'm more concerned with on-base percentage because you can do more damage," he said. "I'd rather have a guy hit .280 and have an on-base percentage of .400 than have a guy hit .310 and have an on-base percentage of .350. Especially the guys who can run and steal a base and do damage and be destructive-type players."

Mazzilli is interested in table-setters - players who can get in position to score when Miguel Tejada, Rafael Palmeiro and Javy Lopez step to the plate. Bigbie singled twice yesterday.

"I look at the Mets in '86 when you had [Lenny] Dykstra and [Wally] Backman on top of the order all the time," Mazzilli said. "They were always on base, and it had an effect, which was we were always going to have a lead quick. You score one run, they've got to score two runs. You score two, they've got to score three."

It's also possible that Jerry Hairston and Brian Roberts eventually could occupy the top two spots in the order if one of them isn't traded. Mazzilli has suggested that one could be used as the designated hitter.

"I also could hit one of them ninth and have speed down there," Mazzilli said. "I'm looking for that right mixture myself."

Matos slated to play

Matos is expected to be the DH for today's game against the Minnesota Twins in Fort Lauderdale. He'll be eased back into center field after the results of a bone scan indicated that he has a superficial stress fracture in his right shin.

"We'll give him a couple at-bats," Mazzilli said. "He feels good and he's champing at the bit right now. Mentally, he needs to get in there and play and clear his mind."

Healthy Segui moves up

Yesterday's lineup also included David Segui at first base and Palmeiro as the DH - an arrangement that won't hold once the regular season begins.

Palmeiro remains the full-time starter at first, but Segui could get plenty of at-bats as the DH if he stays healthy. Once believed to be headed to the disabled list, which would open another bench spot, Segui could force his way onto the 25-man roster. And Mazzilli hasn't been shy about using him.

"He's looked good. He feels healthy," Mazzilli said. "He doesn't have any limitations at all, not unless he tells me. He's full-go."

Segui walked, singled and stole a base yesterday. He looked uncomfortable at second after a hard slide - bending at the knees and wincing - but he stayed in the game.

Preparing to trim

Mazzilli will meet with his coaching staff today to discuss the roster and the first round of cuts, which should come later this week.

Assuming the Orioles take 11 pitchers north, Mazzilli will construct a five-man bench. Rule 5 third baseman Jose Bautista must stay with the club all year or be offered back to Pittsburgh for $25,000. A backup catcher is needed, and utility player Mark McLemore is expected to make the team.

That still leaves openings for an extra infielder and outfielder, and Tim Raines Jr. is trying to complicate the process. Projected for Triple-A a month ago, he's 9-for-21 with a homer and four RBIs after going 0-for-3 with a bases-loaded walk yesterday. One veteran referred to him as the biggest surprise in camp.

"We've got a lot of decisions," Mazzilli said.

Around the horn

Hairston should find out today whether his fractured knuckle will require surgery after visiting a hand specialist in Fort Lauderdale. ... Eight of the 52 players on the Red Sox's spring roster were signed by the organization, including Curt Schilling and Ellis Burks, who have returned. By comparison, 22 of the 59 players in the Orioles' camp are originals.

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