For Bautista, trick is to stick


Infielder says he will do `whatever it takes' to keep his spot on Orioles' roster


April 09, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Jose Bautista didn't head north with the Orioles just so he could be stashed on their roster all season as a Rule 5 pick. He expects to contribute in some manner, perhaps as the backup to third baseman Melvin Mora or as an extra outfielder.

He will accept any role, as long as it's attached to an Orioles uniform.

"I'll do whatever it takes to stay on the team," said Bautista, who must be offered back to the Pittsburgh Pirates if he doesn't remain with the club. "I think as long as I'm feeling good, I can play at the major league level."

His first major league hit came Wednesday night in his first at-bat. Bautista led off the ninth inning by poking a single into right field.

Bautista's locker is stationed beside David Segui's along the back wall of the clubhouse. It's the same space that once belonged to last year's Rule 5 selection, infielder Jose Morban, who was optioned to Double-A Bowie this spring.

"I'm glad I'm here," Bautista said. "I'm glad I got a chance to come to spring training and show them what I can do. I think they liked what they saw."

Bautista knew he had an opportunity to be included on the 25-man roster, especially after looking so polished for someone who hadn't played above Single-A. He just didn't know how big.

"I really didn't have a clue what the organization's depth was, what they were looking for," Bautista said. "I knew with a new manager, he was going to have his own idea and things he wanted."

Bautista ran for Segui in the eighth inning of the opener and scored a run but he was called out last night in the 11th inning for leaving first base too soon.

"He's a little green. The kid came out of A ball, so this is a whole different world for him," manager Lee Mazzilli said. "But he's a kid who has a lot of self-confidence. He carries himself well, and that's half the battle."

Hairston healing

Injured second baseman Jerry Hairston expects to have the splint removed from his right ring finger in about seven days, and he's aiming for a return to the lineup in early May.

Hairston is heading to Arizona tonight to continue his rehab while the Orioles embark on a nine-game road trip. After the splint comes off, he'll need another week to regain flexibility in the finger. He'll go on a minor league assignment after appearing in only one exhibition game.

"I have to make sure I take a good seven to 10 days to have my spring training," he said.

Hairston's return, which he's hoping will fall between May 7 and May 10, might have come sooner if he hadn't missed most of last season with a broken foot.

"It would be different if I had a full year," he said. "I have to make sure that when I come back, I hit the ground running."

And not break his knuckle again.

Stephens claimed

John Stephens, the Australian righty who made 12 appearances with the Orioles in 2002, was claimed off waivers by the Boston Red Sox yesterday and assigned to Triple-A Pawtucket.

The Orioles designated Stephens for assignment at the end of spring training to clear space on their 40-man roster. He went 6-7 with a 3.97 ERA in 27 starts at Ottawa last season.

Stephens was the organization's minor league Pitcher of the Year three times, most recently in 2002.

Meanwhile, pitcher Mike Paradis, the 13th overall selection in the 1999 amateur draft, apparently will work out of Ottawa's bullpen this season.

Paradis, the first of the Orioles' seven first-round and sandwich picks that year, went a combined 21-36 the past three seasons at Bowie. He has pitched in relief only once in 107 professional games.

Ottawa's rotation includes Dave Borkowski, who started last night's opener and tossed five shutout innings in a 2-0 win, Sean Bergman and left-hander Brian Forystek. The Baysox's rotation includes John Maine, Denny Bautista, David Crouthers and Daniel Cabrera.

Morban will mostly play shortstop at Bowie. Ed Rogers, once a highly touted prospect in the system before coming off the 40-man roster last year, has moved to second base.

Left-hander Richard Stahl, drafted five spots after Paradis, has returned to Frederick's rotation after making 27 relief appearances at Delmarva last season.

Around the horn

To correct an item in yesterday's Orioles notebook: The advertising in the brick wall behind home plate is a set of rotating signs of the sort common courtside at basketball games. They are visible at the ballpark.

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