In 1st half to forget, Cabrera memorable

Rookie pitcher a surprise despite Orioles' struggles

Tejada, Mora excel, too

Baseball

July 15, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

The Orioles had a first half of the season to forget as they sank to the bottom of the American League East standings.

Still, there were notable individual performances along the way.

Daniel Cabrera leads all AL rookies in wins (six), ERA (2.90), innings pitched (77 2/3 ) and opponents' batting average (.220).

Melvin Mora was named AL Player of the Month for May, and despite being injured for the past month, he still ranks second in the league with a .347 batting average.

At the rate the team is going, this hardly seems like a time to hand out awards, but the envelopes are in, and here are The Sun's first-half awards. ...

Biggest surprise: Daniel Cabrera.

The 23-year-old made the jump from Double-A Bowie in May, when Matt Riley went on the disabled list, and became the biggest salvation of the first half. He emerged as a Rookie of the Year candidate, allowing three earned runs or fewer in 10 of his 12 starts. Club officials could hardly believe their eyes.

Biggest disappointment: Sidney Ponson.

After returning to the team with a three-year, $22.5 million contract, Ponson got the Opening Night start and won his first two decisions. Since then, he is 1-12 and has lost nine consecutive starts. The Orioles are already through treating him as their ace. He'll return from the break as their No. 5 starter.

Most valuable player: Miguel Tejada.

He has been everything the Orioles asked when they made him the centerpiece of their offseason rebuilding project. With several players hurt, Tejada helped stabilize the team with his everyday presence in the lineup, extending baseball's longest active consecutive-games streak to 681. And when he won the Home Run Derby on Monday night, the Orioles had reason to smile again.

Most improved: B.J. Ryan.

One National League scout whose club is in search of bullpen help attended a recent game at Camden Yards. He spent a few minutes during batting practice raving about Ryan's development into one of the top left-handed relievers in the game. He watched Ryan breeze through a 1-2-3 inning and immediately got up to leave. Jorge Julio came in to pitch the ninth, but by then, the scout was gone. Ryan may be the most valuable trade commodity on the Orioles' roster.

Player to watch: Javy Lopez.

He had a solid first half, batting .321 with 12 home runs and 42 RBIs, but he has been warning the Orioles that he needs more rest. Lopez was used to getting a break every five days when Greg Maddux pitched in Atlanta. The Orioles addressed the situation by adding a third catcher, Ken Huckaby, to complement Lopez and Robert Machado. As the summer warms in Baltimore, the club hopes Lopez's bat doesn't cool.

Orioles schedule

Today @ DEVIL RAYS 6:05 CSN

Fri. @ DEVIL RAYS 12:15 CSN

Sat. @ DEVIL RAYS 6:15 Chs. 54, 20

Sun. @ DEVIL RAYS 1:15 Chs. 13, 20

Mon. @ ROYALS 8:10 CSN

Tues. @ ROYALS 2:10 CSN

Wed. @ RED SOX 7:05 CSN

Radio: All games on WBAL (1090 AM)

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