Orioles are hurting for healthy bodies

Mora, Bigbie, Surhoff give Mazzilli few options

Palmeiro slides to No. 5

Notebook

July 05, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

PHILADELPHIA - Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli must feel as though he's running a delicatessen instead of a baseball team. His roster has been sliced extra thin.

Luis Lopez started at third base again yesterday with Melvin Mora still unavailable because of a strained right hamstring. The Orioles must decide if they should continue playing short or put Mora on the disabled list.

"I'm still debating whether I want to ride it out for a couple days or if it's a DL situation," Mazzilli said.

Larry Bigbie hasn't started since leaving Friday's game with a sprained right ankle, though he pinch-hit in the ninth inning yesterday. With a doubleheader scheduled today at Camden Yards, the Orioles need him for more than spot duty.

"We've got to get through it," Mazzilli said.

B.J. Surhoff remains on the disabled list with a strained left calf muscle. Eligible to come off it yesterday, he also is a health riddle.

"He might be ready tomorrow," Mazzilli said. "I asked him yesterday when he thought he'd be ready and he didn't even know yet."

Surhoff hasn't attempted to run at full speed. He jogged in the outfield yesterday and shagged fly balls.

"There's no way to put a number on it," he said. "Fifteen days is an artificial deadline. I can't even give you an educated answer. It would be speculation."

Jay Gibbons went on the disabled list June 29 with a strained left hip flexor, punching another hole in Mazzilli's lineup.

"We've got four starters out. That's the reality of it," Mazzilli said. "You do the best you can to get through it. You've got to fight through it."

Executive vice president Jim Beattie made the trip to Philadelphia and has spoken with Mazzilli about possible alternatives outside the organization.

"We're searching," Mazzilli said.

The Orioles could use another pitcher besides David Borkowski, who will have his contract purchased from Triple-A Ottawa today and start Game 2 against Tampa Bay, but not at the expense of a position player. That rules out putting Mora on the DL to bolster the staff.

The bullpen was light yesterday because Mazzilli wanted to avoid using Jason Grimsley and B.J. Ryan in four straight games. He also had to avoid rookie Eddy Rodriguez, who went three innings in Friday's 16-inning win.

"I don't want to blow the kid out," Mazzilli said.

Palmeiro tries No. 5

The heart of the Orioles' batting order was beating at a different rhythm yesterday.

Rafael Palmeiro, who is hitting .174 (15-for-86) in his past 23 games, slid from fourth to fifth in the lineup, trading spots with catcher Javy Lopez. It marked the first time this season that Lopez batted ahead of Palmeiro.

The change was made with the Orioles set to face Phillies left-hander Eric Milton, which was no coincidence. Palmeiro is hitting .165 (14-for-85) against lefties.

"We spoke about this a week ago, Javy and Raffy," Mazzilli said. "I might continue to do that against left-handers. We'll just switch it around and see how it goes. I don't think it's a big deal for either guy. They're both fine with it. They both want to do it."

It worked for Lopez, who hit his 11th home run in the second inning. Palmeiro went 0-for-4 and grounded into a double play in the eighth after the first two batters reached.

Palmeiro has 12 RBIs in his past 16 games, but his average is down to .245.

"I'm not feeling the way I want to feel," he said. "I come out every day and try to find it. I'm working hard to see what I'm doing different. One of these days, I'll get it."

Around the horn

David Newhan's hitting streak ended at 15 games when he flied out as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning. ... Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins committed his first error in 48 games.

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