Hairston is rusty in Bowie debut


Pushing to return, he goes 0-for-4 in 5-3 loss

Bigbie gets a night off


May 06, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

With his finger healed and the ball jumping off his bat, Orioles second baseman Jerry Hairston pushed for his removal from extended spring training so he could begin a minor league rehab assignment.

Hairston played his first game yesterday at Double-A Bowie, and the results differed from Florida - to the surprise of no one in the organization.

Still showing some rust because of his limited plate appearances the past two years, Hairston went 0-for-4 in the Baysox's 5-3 loss to Erie at Prince George's Stadium.

With Doc Rodgers, director of minor league operations, watching, Hairston popped up three times and grounded out. He played all nine innings at second.

"Doc said his timing is still off," said executive vice president Jim Beattie. "He just needs to get more game time. On the field he's feeling comfortable.

"He's had one game there. Let's see what kind of adjustments he makes tomorrow, Saturday, maybe Sunday, and see what happens."

Hairston is eager to return, but Beattie is counting on sound judgment overruling the instinct to rush back.

"Jerry will probably be able to tell us when he's ready," Beattie said. "As much as he wants to push it forward, hopefully he'll be honest with himself and say, `I'm not quite ready.' I think he got antsy down at extended spring when he really started hitting the ball. And our reports were good on him."

Hairston could be activated next week, giving manager Lee Mazzilli a proven right-handed hitter but also creating a complex situation at second base. Brian Roberts has started all 25 games and is batting .333 with 13 steals.

"This kid at second base, what are you going to do, the way he's played? He's done a great job," Mazzilli said of Roberts. "They can very easily both be in the lineup. I have a lot of options."

Bigbie sits vs. lefty

With the Chicago White Sox starting left-hander Mark Buehrle, Mazzilli decided to rest Larry Bigbie and add an extra right-handed bat to his lineup.

Darnell McDonald made his first start in left field, going 3-for-4, while Bigbie took a seat on the bench, where he couldn't raise his average after a 3-for-16 stretch lowered it to .241. He is 6-for-31 against left-handers.

"It's just a night off," Bigbie said before the game. "You know you're not going to play every game."

He was on pace to do it. Bigbie appeared in every game before last night, though he didn't start Saturday in Cleveland because of a stiff neck. He was used as a pinch runner.

Bigbie will receive more rest because the Orioles are off today.

"I feel good at the plate," he said. "The last couple games I didn't feel like myself. But it seems like when I was feeling like myself, the hits weren't coming anyway."

Unlike Jay Gibbons, who kept his facial hair until getting two hits Tuesday night, Bigbie will continue to shave every day.

"I couldn't grow a beard if I wanted to," he said.

Slumping Matos hits 7th

Luis Matos moved up to seventh in the lineup, where he tried to ignite another hitting streak.

Matos hit in six straight games, going 10-for-25, before an 0-for-14 skid that ended with his fourth-inning single. He finished 1-for-5 with two strikeouts, leaving his average at .213.

"I'm pulling the ball more than last year," he said. "I need to think about the middle and the other side of the field. That's the only thing I'm doing different from last year."

Matos didn't have to play with a stress fracture in his right shin last year, but he said the spring training injury hasn't restricted him at the plate or in the field.

"It feels a lot better than it did," said Matos, who receives ultrasound treatments for 20 minutes each day and wears an ice pack on his leg after games.

"It's not sore at all like before, so that's good. The treatments must be doing something."

They might be needed on his left side. Matos hit the ground hard while diving for a ball in right-center field in the eighth inning. He trapped it, and Aaron Rowand was credited with a run-scoring double. Matos was slow to rise but stayed in the game.

Another stop for Chen

Left-hander Bruce Chen will make his first start for Triple-A Ottawa tomorrow.

Chen, 26, has pitched in the majors for Atlanta, Philadelphia, the New York Mets, Montreal, Cincinnati, Houston and Boston. He's 20-19 with a 4.59 ERA in 155 career games.

To make room on the Lynx's roster, former major league pitcher Sean Bergman was transferred to short-season Single-A Aberdeen.

John Maine made his first start at Ottawa yesterday, allowing two runs and four hits in five innings. He struck out two and left with a 3-2 lead, but the Lynx lost to Pawtucket, 5-3, in 10 innings.

The Orioles promoted Maine from Bowie after five starts.

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