Bigbie, O's battle elements, Martinez

Cold weather expected for clash with Boston ace

Ryan ready for new role in bullpen

April 04, 2004|By P.J. Martinez | P.J. Martinez, Staff

As the temperature plummets during the late innings tonight, at least one Oriole will be feeling right at home.

A native of Hobart, Ind., left fielder Larry Bigbie is no stranger to playing in cold weather. Bigbie played his college ball at Ball State, where the first two months of the season were generally marked by temperatures more suited for ice skating than baseball.

"I had to play in these elements all through college," Bigbie said. "Our first month and a half or so was just freezing."

After hitting .303 in 83 games last season, the 6-foot-4, 215-pounder will make the first opening day start of his career. He'll hit eighth in the batting order, sandwiched between David Segui and Luis Matos.

Bigbie said the weather won't make any changes in his hitting approach, with one major exception.

"I think you might lay off a couple of pitches that are in on you," he said. "You're a little more conscious of the inside corner."

Especially against Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez, who is notorious for for backing hitters of the plate with high, hard fastballs in almost any count.

Martinez will be making his second career opening day start at Camden Yards tonight. The 5-foot-11 right-hander dazzled the Orioles in 2001, allowing just one run and four hits before being replaced at the start of the eighth inning. The Orioles rallied to win 2-1, and Martinez received a no-decision.

But rumors have swirled throughout spring training that Martinez may be a different pitcher this season. His fastball, usually clocked in the low to mid 90s, was registered at 86-88 mph for most of the spring, prompting many to wonder whether he's entering the final years of his career.

Bigbie, however, isn't buying it.

"I think he's still the same old Pedro," he said. "His stuff is still pretty much at the top of the game."

Ryan ready for call

After six years in the big leagues, reliever B.J. Ryan still hasn't shaken the opening day jitters.

Hours before the first pitch, the towering left-hander sat in front of his locker, itching to get on the field and play the first game of the season.

"The butterflies always stay with you," he said. "The anticipation has been building all spring. That's what gets all these guys going."

Ryan enters his first season as the team's primary left-handed setup man, where he took over last year for veteran Buddy Groom. The 6-foot-6 Ryan made a career-high 67 apperances last season, pitching to a 2.48 ERA during the last three months of the season.

Despite the heightened expectations, Ryan says he's won't try to do anything different this season.

"You just go out there and do your job," he said. "When that [bullpen] phone rings for the first time, I'll be ready to go."

Originally published April 4, 2004, 7:19 PM EDT

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