O's Mazzilli keeping things in order

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Consistent lineup card draws praise from players

Notebook

April 23, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

The Orioles' lineup has become so predictable these days, first baseman Rafael Palmeiro doesn't bother to check the card that's posted on the hallway outside the clubhouse. He knows where he'll be hitting and which players will surround him. It's no mystery.

Manager Lee Mazzilli has written out the same order in seven of the past eight games, with the only change coming because of injuries to Jay Gibbons and David Segui.

"I think it's a good thing," Palmeiro said. "It stabilizes the lineup, and everybody feels comfortable where they are. They understand their role. I think you do a better job that way."

Palmeiro heads straight to his locker after arriving at Camden Yards, certain he will be playing first base and batting fourth.

"The lineup's pretty much been the same, and that's a good thing," he said. "You come to the ballpark knowing you're going to play in a certain spot."

Old habits are hard to break, and Melvin Mora still makes sure he's at third base each day after carving his niche as a utility player who moves around.

"Something might change," he said.

If everyone stays healthy, it won't happen with any regularity. Mora has been at the same position for every game, batting second behind Brian Roberts.

"It makes me a little more relaxed," he said.

Three open dates in April and two rainouts in Boston last week allow Mazzilli to be more predictable because his players are rested. Backup catcher Keith Osik likely will get a start this weekend, with Javy Lopez serving as the designated hitter for the second time. For Lopez, this constitutes a break.

"Sometimes you're a creature of habit when the team is doing well. It's not that the other guys can't play," Mazzilli said.

"I know as a ballplayer, if you come in one day and you're hitting second and the next day you're hitting ninth, you say to yourself, `What happened? I didn't get any hits the day before and now I'm hitting ninth.' That has something to do with it, the psychological side."

Toned-down clubhouse

The changes in the Orioles' clubhouse this season extend beyond the roster and coloring of the walls. The sounds are different, too.

There are fewer of them -- at least musically.

Mazzilli has adopted the Yankees' policy of not allowing the stereo to be used before games. Players must wear headphones, which means pitcher Sidney Ponson blares his Metallica before starts only when the team heads outside to stretch and the place is empty.

"I know what to do to get myself pumped up to pitch," he said.

It's common practice in the majors for teams to play music after a win. One year, Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" became the Orioles' good-luck tune, though tastes naturally vary among players.

"Over the past few years, I've learned that when there's music, there are four or five different guys who like different types and they're always complaining," reliever Rick Bauer said. "Now I don't hear anybody complaining."

Eye on Harrisburg?

With a buyer found for the Double-A franchise in Harrisburg, Pa., speculation continues to mount that the Orioles will relocate their Triple-A affiliate there after their two-year agreement with Ottawa expires in September.

A group led by minor league operator David Hersh reportedly has agreed to purchase the Senators for $9.4 million and move them, which would enable the city to pursue the Orioles' Triple-A team.

Major League Baseball and minor league officials would have to approve the purchase, and the International League would have to give permission for the Lynx to relocate.

Around the horn

Javy Lopez's career-high 16-game hitting streak ended. ... Brian Roberts had his right hand wrapped after the game. "I got jammed so bad," he said, "I couldn't feel my hand."

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