Power outage threatens Palmeiro homer streak

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Orioles

July 02, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - He has had long fly balls die in the ocean air at Dodger Stadium and others smash high off the right-field scoreboard at Camden Yards.

But the bottom line is Rafael Palmeiro's home run numbers are down, and barring a remarkable resurgence, his streak of nine consecutive seasons with at least 38 homers is about to end.

Even with his seventh-inning home run last night, Palmeiro has 11 home runs in the Orioles' first 75 games, putting him on pace to finish the season with 24. That would be his lowest total since he had 23 in the strike-shortened 1994 season.

"I'm frustrated because I feel like I'm not producing the way I should," Palmeiro said. "I'm not worried about a streak. I just want to be productive for the team."

Palmeiro's average has also been in steady decline. He hit .311 in April, .253 in May and .185 in June.

Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli said he's talked to Palmeiro about being more patient at the plate.

"Usually, he doesn't mind hitting with two strikes," Mazzilli said. "I think he's just a little overanxious. And that happens when you get into a little bit of a slump. You try to hit everything."

Palmeiro, 39, returned to the Orioles last winter with a one-year, $4.5 million deal. The contract includes a club option for next season.

After experiencing what it was like in Baltimore when the Orioles came one step from the American League pennant in 1996 and 1997, Palmeiro took it hard when the club went a major league worst 8-19 last month.

"I think individually we have to pick it up," Palmeiro said. "I know some guys are having great years. Javy [Lopez] and [Miguel] Tejada and [Melvin] Mora - those guys are hitting well. The rest of us need to step it up."

Grimsley nearing the end

Jason Grimsley negotiated a one-year, $2 million contract extension with the Orioles before they completed the trade to acquire him from the Kansas City Royals last month for minor league pitcher Denny Bautista, 23.

And Grimsley, who turns 37 in August, said he'll likely retire when the contract ends.

"There's a good chance that next year's going to be my last year," he said. "Everybody tells me to play until they take the uniform off my back, but I'm starting to get to the point where I want more time with my family."

Grimsley was openly critical of the Royals' player personnel decisions, but he said he's happy to be with the Orioles, especially because he's nearing the end of his career.

"You look around this room, and this team is always in an add mode," he said. "They want to win, and that's what you like."

DuBose has surgery

Eric DuBose underwent arthroscopic surgery to remove bone chips from his left elbow yesterday, and Mazzilli said DuBose is expected to miss six to eight weeks.

DuBose is 4-6 with a 6:39 ERA in 14 starts this season.

Different lineup

Trying to keep his players fresh in the middle of a stretch of 17 games in 16 days, Mazzilli mixed things up a bit yesterday. Catcher Lopez got his 10th start as the designated hitter and second baseman Brian Roberts was not in the starting lineup.

Jerry Hairston started at second base and hit seventh in the lineup. The hot-hitting David Newhan was in the leadoff spot.

Decision pending

With a doubleheader Monday against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the Orioles will need a spot starter, and Mazzilli hasn't yet said who it will be. Daniel Cabrera will start the first game.

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