No second thoughts on Roberts, Hairston


Despite shaky results, Mazzilli still committed to getting both in lineup


May 20, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

SEATTLE - The Orioles are a little more than a week into their experiment of using both Brian Roberts and Jerry Hairston in the same lineup, with Roberts at second base and Hairston as the designated hitter or in the outfield, and so far the results have been shaky.

Entering last night's game, Roberts was batting .125 (3-for-24) since Hairston returned, and Hairston was batting .143 (3-for-21).

But Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli is undeterred. He intends to stay with the program and keep Roberts at second base for the immediate future.

"They both want to play [second base]," Mazzilli said. "It's hard to play one guy one day, and one guy the other. I don't think that would be helping the ballclub by going back and forth."

Roberts might have hit this slump eventually anyway. And Mazzilli will be patient with Hairston, who broke his right ring finger March 4 and didn't begin facing live pitching again at extended spring training until April 29.

"I'm not worried about the numbers [for Hairston], and I told him that," Mazzilli said. "You're not expecting him to come in and set the world on fire. In this game, it takes a while to get back."

R. Lopez in starting mode

Rodrigo Lopez has been beaming all week about his chance to return to the starting rotation tonight in the series finale at Seattle.

He was stunned when he lost his starting spot the last week of spring training, when Mazzilli decided to go with Matt Riley and Erik Bedard and relegated him to the bullpen. Instead of focusing on results during spring training, Lopez said, he tried perfecting his secondary pitches, namely his cut fastball.

That pitch, which bears in on left-handed hitters, has been critical to his success this season. Last year, lefties torched him for a .308 average with 16 home runs in 318 at-bats. This year, they are hitting .194 with no homers in 31 at-bats.

Mazzilli has talked about how proud he is of the way Lopez handled the bullpen move without complaint. All Lopez did was post a 0.33 ERA, allowing one earned run in 27 1/3 innings.

"There's things I can say with my mouth, but I prefer to do it on the mound," Lopez said.

Lopez hasn't thrown more than 54 pitches in a game this season, so he'll be on a restricted pitch count, but Mazzilli said it could be "in that 90-pitch range."

Paging Mr. Moyer

The Mariners will skip Gil Meche this time through the rotation so left-hander Jamie Moyer can face the Orioles tonight. Moyer is 14-2 with a 3.11 ERA for his career against the Orioles, and he held them to one run on four hits over seven innings in a no-decision on April 28.

Look for more teams to stack their rotations so left-handers face the Orioles because several of their hitters have struggled to hit lefties this year, including Larry Bigbie (.162 against lefties entering last night), Jay Gibbons (.182), Luis Matos (.149), Melvin Mora (.229) and Rafael Palmeiro (.143).

Riley growing anxious

Riley has watched Daniel Cabrera go 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA in two starts while he's been on the disabled list with a sore left shoulder. Riley, who is eligible to return to the roster Tuesday, threw off flat ground two days ago and will throw off a bullpen mound today.

"It's time to get this thing rolling," Riley said. "I've only thrown two-thirds of an inning in May, and I'm anxious to get out there and pitch."

Riley, who was sent to the bullpen after going 1-1 with a 5.66 ERA in four starts, said he would like a rotation spot back, but he knows he could be back in a relief role when he returns.

"The No. 1 issue is to help this team win," Riley said. "I just want to pitch; that's the main concern."

Asked about a potential Cabrera vs. Riley choice, Mazzilli said, "It's very hard for me to take the kid [Cabrera] out right now. I'm going to cross that bridge when I get there."

Around the horn

Hairston was an All-Chicago-area point guard with Naperville (Ill.) North High School in 1995, the same year Kevin Garnett graduated from Farragut Academy and signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves as the fifth overall pick in the NBA draft. Hairston said he played against Garnett once in a summer league game and had no doubt how far his basketball career would take him. ... The Orioles will give Sidney Ponson an extra day of rest this time through the rotation, pitching him Saturday against the Angels in Anaheim. That would allow him to face the New York Yankees in both of their upcoming series.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.