Palmeiro's next HR is special, with his idol Mantle on deck


`He was a baseball god'

Hairston starts at second


May 30, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

DETROIT - Rafael Palmeiro has joined some exclusive company on baseball's all-time home run list, but he said the name that comes next means more than all the others.

Palmeiro has hit 535 home runs. With one more, he'll match Mickey Mantle for 11th on the all-time list.

"I grew up hearing my dad talk about Mickey Mantle," Palmeiro said. "My dad spoke about him so much, I thought he was a baseball god. And Mickey is one of the all-time greats."

Jose Palmeiro was the driving force behind his son's development as a baseball player. Growing up in Miami, Rafael heard countless stories about Mantle, the switch-hitting center fielder of the New York Yankees.

Palmeiro has already passed Jimmie Foxx (534) this season. Last year, he passed Willie McCovey (521), Ted Williams (521), Ernie Banks (512), Eddie Mathews (512), Mel Ott (511) and Eddie Murray (504).

After Mantle, Palmeiro will take aim at Mike Schmidt (548), Sammy Sosa (549) and Reggie Jackson (563). Last night, in the first inning, he also passed Cap Anson for 17th on the all-time list with his 1,716th RBI.

"This is the one that I think means the most," Palmeiro said of Mantle and No. 536. "Next to him, the rest is gravy, man."

Another break for Roberts

Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli insisted he wasn't wavering from his commitment to keep Brian Roberts as his second baseman and leadoff hitter, yet gave Roberts another day off yesterday, as Jerry Hairston filled the second base and leadoff role.

Roberts went 0-for-6 Friday, and is hitting .121 (8-for-66) in his past 16 games.

"It's just a day off," Mazzilli said. "He will be there [today] playing second base."

Hairston also has struggled since returning from the disabled list, batting .196 over his first 16 games before going 2-for-5 last night.

Asked if the crowded second base situation has become a problem, Mazzilli said no. But he did say, "I think they're both not where they should be yet.

"Jerry's a better player than that. He just got off to a slow start. But we didn't think he was going to set the world on fire. I said that to him. He hadn't played in six months."

With Roberts out, seldom-used Luis Lopez got a chance to bat ninth as the designated hitter, and went 1-for-3.

Leading man

The Orioles led last night from beginning to end, something rookie Daniel Cabrera has experienced four times in his four starts.

All four of his starts have come on the road, meaning the Orioles have had one turn at bat each time before he's taken the mound.

In an uncanny coincidence, the team has gone out and scored one run in each of those first innings, so he's taken a 1-0 lead into every first pitch.

Gibbons a day away?

Jay Gibbons has yet to swing a bat since leaving Tuesday night's game with what was diagnosed as a slight bulge of a disc in his lower back. Mazzilli said he was hoping Gibbons could take batting practice today and perhaps play tomorrow.

Mazzilli would be less likely to use Gibbons today anyway, with the Orioles facing Tigers left-hander Mike Maroth.

The manager said he would likely give catcher Javy Lopez a breather today, with a day game after a night game, using him as the DH or sitting him, depending on how Palmeiro feels.

Palmer sues eye doctor

Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer is suing a doctor in Jupiter, Fla., for allegedly damaging the vision in his left eye during cataract surgery. Palmer, an Orioles broadcaster, filed the malpractice lawsuit on May 18 in Palm Beach County against ophthalmologist Tom Coffman.

The suit accuses Coffman of causing Palmer's retina to become detached after the 2001 surgery and failing to quickly diagnose the problem. Palmer's attorney contends that the former pitcher has problems with glare, distance vision and depth perception that can't be corrected with glasses.

Around the horn

Matt Riley struck out five Columbus batters in four perfect innings last night in his first start for Triple-A Ottawa. The Orioles optioned him Tuesday, so he can't be recalled until Friday. ... Talk about diversity. The five members of the Orioles' starting rotation hail from different countries: Sidney Ponson (Aruba), Eric DuBose (United States), Daniel Cabrera (Dominican Republic), Erik Bedard (Canada) and Rodrigo Lopez (Mexico). Their two catchers, Javy Lopez (Puerto Rico) and Robert Machado (Venezuela), add to the mix.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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