Bigbie remains cool over tepid numbers

`Good swings' generate confidence he'll leave run of bad luck behind


April 21, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

The first ball that Larry Bigbie hit last night caromed off the leg of Tampa Bay pitcher Mark Hendrickson and rolled to shortstop Julio Lugo, whose high throw resulted in an error. With any luck, Bigbie would have had a run-scoring single instead of being 0-for-1.

In his next at-bat, he lined a pitch into left field that Carl Crawford turned into an out with a sliding catch. He scalded the ball twice and was 0-for-2.

That's how a player with Bigbie's offensive skills can be hitting .191 through 12 games.

"I feel good in the box right now," he said after going 0-for-3 with a walk and run scored in the Orioles' 9-1 victory. "I'm putting good swings on the ball, but the hits aren't coming. If I was really struggling and hitting little tappers, I'd be worried. But I feel confident and I'm seeing the ball well."

The view came from a little higher in the order last night.

With two players scratched - Jay Gibbons because of a stiff lower back and David Segui because of sore knees - Bigbie moved up from ninth to eighth against the Devil Rays. It wasn't the type of climb that causes nosebleeds, but at least he escaped the bottom.

Since hitting eighth on Opening Night, Bigbie has batted ninth in eight games. Manager Lee Mazzilli prefers having Luis Matos' right-handed bat between the designated hitter and Bigbie, who swings from the left side.

It's an interesting turn of events for Bigbie, who often hit second in spring training and was preparing himself for that role.

"It doesn't bother me at all," he said. "We have a great lineup. We have a guy like Segui hitting seventh, so for me to be hitting just two spots behind him, it's not that bad. Plus, once you get through the lineup the first time, I think it's all kind of overlooked from there.

"I'm happy with the way things have gone so far. I really can't see myself hitting anywhere else in this lineup. Melvin [Mora] is the perfect two-hole hitter. I don't know how many times this year he's had to bunt a guy over. That's something he's more experienced at than I am. I think the lineup's exactly the way it should be."

Bigbie began last night hitting .205 in 44 at-bats, but his nine RBIs were tied with Javy Lopez for the club lead. He homered in the ninth inning Saturday to give the Orioles a 5-3 win over Toronto, and his bases-loaded walk in the 13th drove in the winning run April 8 against Boston.

Imagine if the breaks start going his way.

Tampa Bay's Jose Cruz robbed Bigbie in the ninth inning of an April 9 game at Tropicana Field, making a running catch in right-center field with the bases loaded, two outs and the Orioles leading 3-2. Closer Jorge Julio blew the save, and the Devil Rays won it in the 10th.

"If it's up to 128 games and I'm still hitting .200," Bigbie said, "then I'll start worrying."

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