Hairston expected to start in outfield vs. Angels tonight


He'll try new position, but `everybody knows I'm a second baseman'

May 15, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Willing to experiment with another right-handed bat in the lineup, the Orioles are expected to start Jerry Hairston in the outfield tonight against the Anaheim Angels at Camden Yards.

Hairston, a shortstop and second baseman throughout his professional career, apparently will play left or right field. Manager Lee Mazzilli indicated yesterday that Luis Matos would stay in center against Angels left-hander Jarrod Washburn, so Larry Bigbie or Jay Gibbons will be affected by the move.

"I'm not looking for him to be Willie Mays in the outfield. I just want him to catch the balls that are hit to him," Mazzilli said. "If he wants to play, he's going out there."

Mazzilli figures the biggest challenge for Hairston will be communicating with Matos and not instinctively trying to run down every ball.

"He's up for it," Mazzilli said, "and that's half the battle."

Hairston was used as the designated hitter last night for the second time since leaving the disabled list on Tuesday. His only start in the field came at second base in Game 2 of Thursday's doubleheader in Chicago, and he responded with a home run in the Orioles' 6-5 loss.

Though he's open to changing positions, Hairston clearly prefers to remain at second base, which eventually could force a trade.

"I'm a second baseman and I feel that I'm a pretty good one. But for this situation, Brian [Roberts] is playing really well and obviously we don't want to disturb that," Hairston said.

"They asked me what I thought about it and I told them I'd do whatever they asked me to do. I'm a player and I believe whatever the player's told, you do it. I'll let it work itself out. I know what type of player I am. It will resolve itself soon enough."

Chosen in the 11th round of the 1997 draft out of Southern Illinois, Hairston began his professional career as a shortstop before moving to second base. His outfield experience dates back to Little League.

"I always felt if you were a shortstop, you could play just about anywhere," he said. "But everybody knows I'm a second baseman."

Hairston shagged fly balls again yesterday in preparation for tonight's assignment.

"We've got good outfielders," he said. "Luis Matos is a great center fielder. Larry Bigbie's going to be a great player, and so is Jay. A couple of them are struggling right now, but they're going to get out of it. Those guys are the starters. I'm not a starter in the outfield, but they asked me if something came up, would I help them out, and I said, `Yes.' "

It sure beats pacing the dugout as the designated hitter, a role Hairston has found more challenging than he anticipated. He received some tips from former Oriole Harold Baines, now the White Sox's bench coach, and first baseman Rafael Palmeiro.

"It's so hard," he said. "I'm a very energetic person. I always have to be moving. The biggest thing is staying active, whether it's riding the bike or swinging the bat. I don't want to sit because you get stiff. It's very difficult to DH, and I have a lot of respect for guys who do it."

Cabrera to start Tuesday

Coming off his six shutout innings in Game 1 of Thursday's doubleheader, Daniel Cabrera will make his next start Tuesday in Seattle rather than be skipped in the rotation.

Promoted from Double-A Bowie, Cabrera has replaced left-hander Matt Riley in the rotation. Riley went on the disabled list with stiffness in his left shoulder, but said he should be ready when eligible to return on May 25.

"Absolutely. Without a doubt," he said. "There's just some inflammation and fatigue."

Pressed into immediate duty, Cabrera held the White Sox to two hits and left with a 1-0 lead. The bullpen covered the last three innings for his first major league win.

"His sinker was moving and he was cutting it. His ball was moving all over the place. It was very impressive," Mazzilli said.

"You never know what you're going to get when you throw a guy out on the mound like that," Mazzilli added. "He had some pretty good outings down there [at Bowie]. The reports that I got said this kid was throwing the ball real well and he was the guy to go to when we were looking for a pitcher."

Mazzilli wouldn't project Cabrera's status beyond Tuesday. "I'm not going to say it's a make-or-break situation for him," he said. "I just want to see where everything fits in."

Good-luck ribbon

Shortstop Miguel Tejada walked through the clubhouse yesterday with a red ribbon tied to his right ankle, but he wasn't making a fashion statement or accessorizing his uniform.

"It's good luck," he said, grinning. "My father sent it to me."

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