Gibbons keeps swinging in bid to shake slump

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Outfielder gets two hits

Maine makes Lynx debut

Notebook

May 05, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Other than watching some videotape and taking a few more swings in the indoor batting cage, right fielder Jay Gibbons wasn't sure how to end a slump that lowered his average to .202 heading into last night.

Maybe all it takes is a broken bat.

Gibbons was 3-for-31 before singling twice last night. His first hit stayed in the infield, and scattered pieces of wood in the grass. He also looped a single into left field.

"I'd almost rather hit line drives at somebody than have two cheapies," he said afterward. "I still feel like I'm not there yet. But I'll take it. We won."

And Gibbons shaved. He waited until producing a two-hit game, though the club's facial-hair policy would have intervened as the red stubble grew.

"Slumps are magnified more at the start of the season because I don't have an average," he said. "I had a few of these last year in the middle of the season and nobody really knew."

Gibbons was 0-for-15 before his two-run single against Seattle on April 28 broke a 1-1 tie. It didn't change his season.

"I've been frustrated for a couple weeks," he said. "It's hard not to go out there and take every at-bat like it's your last."

Manager Lee Mazzilli noted that Gibbons had been bothered by some back stiffness the past week, and last year's team Most Valuable Player also might be pressing in an attempt to get untracked. It's a tough combination for any player.

"He's a proven hitter," Mazzilli said. "You don't knock in 100 runs by mistake. He just needs a couple good games under his belt, some line drives."

Maine moves up

John Maine makes his first Triple-A start today when Ottawa visits Pawtucket.

The Orioles promoted Maine, their minor league Pitcher of the Year in 2003, after he went 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA in five starts at Double-A Bowie. He spent last year at the Single-A level.

Ottawa's starting pitching has been atrocious this year, but Doc Rodgers, the Orioles' director of minor league operations, said Maine isn't moving up simply to bail out the Lynx.

"My philosophy has always been players aren't necessarily ready when you need them. You move them when they're ready. This is all about John Maine being ready," Rodgers said.

"We can either have him go 15-0 and strike out 200 at Double-A or challenge him at Triple-A."

The Orioles also are bumping up pitcher Brian Finch, drafted in the second round last year, from low Single-A Delmarva to Bowie. He's skipping high Single-A Frederick after going 2-2 with a 1.44 ERA in five games.

Pitcher Ryan Hannaman, acquired from San Francisco last summer in the Sidney Ponson trade, is being reassigned to extended spring training. He allowed 11 earned runs and walked 16 in 12 1/3 innings at Frederick, and Rodgers said the left-hander's mechanics have "broken down completely."

Ft. Lauderdale extension?

The Orioles appear close to signing a one-year agreement with the city of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to hold their 10th spring training there.

A story in today's South Florida Sun-Sentinel says city commissioners yesterday gave approval for an agreement that would allow the Orioles to take over the stadium by June 1 and operate it at no cost to Fort Lauderdale. The agreement must be voted upon May 18.

The Orioles also would continue to seek $15 million or more in state funds. The team would match that sum in order to renovate the 43-year-old facility.

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