Osik plays catch-up in 2nd start of year


Strong defensive catcher strives to `stay prepared

' R. Lopez thrives, waits

April 26, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Each time Orioles catcher Keith Osik walked past the lineup card outside the home clubhouse yesterday, he'd take a quick glance to see whether his name was included on it.

When a player has made only one start in 16 games, he's not going to assume anything.

A day game increased his chances of being in the lineup, but Osik had to wait until later in the morning before it became official. He batted ninth against the Toronto Blue Jays' Roy Halladay, with Javy Lopez making his second start as the designated hitter.

Though he went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in a 15-3 loss, Osik took a throw from right fielder Jay Gibbons and tagged out Carlos Delgado in the fifth and cut down Delgado trying to advance to third base in the sixth.

Manager Lee Mazzilli indicated a few days earlier that Lopez would be the DH once during the weekend, giving Osik his first start since April 9 in Boston. His fourth appearance came Friday, when he struck out as a pinch hitter and caught the last inning.

Backup duty has been Osik's responsibility since breaking into the majors with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1996, but this year's inactivity has gone to new extremes. It would be a convenient crutch if he was looking for one.

"You can't have any excuses. Excuses are for losers," he said.

"You give your best when you go out there, and you stay prepared as much as you can by getting your work in, whether that be throwing to bases, hitting in the cage. That's my job."

The Orioles chose Osik over Geronimo Gil and Robert Machado because of his deft touch handling pitchers and his ability to sit for prolonged stretches without complaint and still be productive.

"The biggest part of being a bench player is staying ready mentally as much as physically," Osik said. "I come to the park thinking I'm going to play. You can't think it's going to be a week or two weeks from now. You have to watch every pitch. You're one of 25 guys, and you're here to help the team. There are a lot of things you can do."

With three days off and two rainouts this month, Osik's chances to catch became more scarce. But that should change as the season wears on and Lopez requires more rest.

"It's a long season," Osik said. "When it heats up, I'm sure he's going to need some time. But I don't focus so much on me. ... It's about winning games."

R. Lopez in `perfect role'

With 12 2/3 scoreless innings, Rodrigo Lopez is thriving in a relief role, even as he refuses to embrace it.

Lopez still wants to be a starter, but Mazzilli said there are no immediate plans to put him in the rotation.

"Right now, he's in a perfect role. He's an integral part of the team and the bullpen," Mazzilli said. "I know what he wants to do. I'm sure it was a bitter pill for him to swallow initially, but he's risen to the occasion."

Lopez lost his spot in the rotation to rookie Erik Bedard in spring training. Bedard is scheduled to pitch Thursday, but he has allowed five runs and walked eight in 6 2/3 innings covering two starts.

"I can't predict what's going to happen next week, if someone goes down or we need a spot starter," Mazzilli said. "That's something you just have to mix and match if it happens."

Segui OK to play

David Segui had some swelling in his left knee Saturday night, but it subsided enough yesterday that he could have played.

Segui made his first start in the field Saturday before B.J. Surhoff replaced him in the 10th inning. With little cartilage left in his knees, soreness and swelling come with the territory.

"It's a little sore, but he's available," Mazzilli said.

Cordova back soon?

As his rehab continues, it's possible Marty Cordova could return to the active roster within the next two weeks.

Cordova, who underwent ligament-replacement surgery on his right elbow in August, is playing in extended spring training games in Florida. But it's not enough that he can swing a bat. The club needs his arm to be strong enough so he can throw from the outfield.

"From a hitting standpoint he's pretty good," Mazzilli said. "But I don't want to bring him back if he's only able to hit."

Around the horn

Rafael Palmeiro's two RBIs gave him 1,703, passing Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson for 18th place on baseball's all-time list. ... Lopez was presented with the National League's Silver Slugger Award as the best offensive catcher last season. He broke a 10-year streak by the New York Mets' Mike Piazza. ... Toronto shortstop Chris Woodward was batting .156 before the series, but went 7-for-10 after sitting out Friday to raise his average to .286. He had a career-high four hits yesterday and came within a home run of the cycle.

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