Strikeout is relief for O's, DeJean

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Struggling pitcher escapes jam by whiffing Martinez

Melvin: `It was a bad call'

Notebook

May 21, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

SEATTLE - Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli was perched on the top step of the dugout Wednesday night, ready to make a switch, as Mike DeJean struggled through another harrowing seventh inning.

DeJean had inherited a 4-1 lead from Erik Bedard with two outs in the seventh inning, and the whole thing was quickly falling apart. The Seattle Mariners had cut the lead to two runs, and the bases were loaded with Edgar Martinez at the plate.

Mazzilli had B.J. Ryan ready but decided to give DeJean one more batter. That might not have been a popular decision with the Orioles' fan base, but it was a decision that had big-picture implications.

The Orioles know they're going to need DeJean in those situations to have long-term success. Ryan can't shoulder the entire load, and with Rodrigo Lopez back in the starting rotation, the team's other right-handed set-up options - Rick Bauer and Darwin Cubillan - are still suspect.

DeJean had lowered his ERA from 8.38 to 6.08 heading into the game, and Mazzilli felt he made a good pitch to Jolbert Cabrera, who reached on an infield single.

"He could have gotten out of that with one pitch," Mazzilli said last night.

Cabrera's single trimmed the lead to 4-2, and then DeJean walked Bret Boone on four pitches, loading the bases. Mazzilli continued to bristle as DeJean fell behind in the count to Martinez 2-0 and 3-1. But then, after Martinez fouled off a good pitch, DeJean struck him out with a fastball off the outside corner.

The normally reserved Martinez barked at plate umpire Larry Young, to no avail.

"It was a bad call," Mariners manager Bob Melvin said. "Edgar knows the outside corner as well as any right-handed hitter I've ever seen. We put ourselves behind the 8-ball there, but it was a bad call at an inopportune time."

Afterward, Mazzilli breathed a huge sigh of relief.

"[DeJean] had to have that game," he said. "I think it was big for him to get that out."

Hairston, Roberts swap

Jerry Hairston made his second start of the season at second base last night, and Mazzilli used Brian Roberts as the designated hitter.

Mazzilli is still committed to giving Roberts the bulk of the time at second base, but he said Hairston "has got to play second base, too. I don't want to totally keep him out of it. I did this just to mix it up a little bit."

Roberts hasn't made an error in 35 games at second base this season, but he entered last night riding a 3-for-34 slump. Hairston had two hits Wednesday, raising his average to .208.

Matos finds his swing

After seeing his average dip to .200 on Saturday, Luis Matos went 7-for-12 in his next three games, raising that mark to .234. He also had three home runs in six games.

Matos said he was trying to pull too many pitches, but he has changed his approach at the plate, purposely trying to stay back and hit to right field. He had three hits Wednesday, all to left field, but Matos said it was still the product of the right approach.

"I know I can pull the ball," he said. "But I need to stay back, trust my hands, and try to go the other way like I did all of last year. If I stay back, it allows me to see the ball longer."

Said Mazzilli: "It's encouraging. He's getting to the point where - I don't want to say he's locked in - but he feels real comfortable at the plate."

Around the horn

In his first start at Triple-A Ottawa, Kurt Ainsworth gave up four runs on seven hits over four innings last night at Toledo. He walked one and struck out six. ... Adam Loewen was scratched from his start at Single-A Delmarva on Wednesday because of a strained rib cage muscle. Orioles officials said it was strictly a precautionary move, and they only plan to have him miss one start. ... Matt Riley, who is eligible to come off the disabled list Tuesday, tested his left shoulder with an 11-minute bullpen session yesterday and reported no pain. He'll have another bullpen session tomorrow.

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