Slumping Matos can't argue with being benched

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

`I'm not doing the job,' says O's .233 hitter

Segui due for rehab assignment

Orioles

July 18, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - With his batting average down to .233, Orioles center fielder Luis Matos was benched for last night's game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Tim Raines Jr. replaced Matos, who was in a 4-for-39 slump with one RBI in his past 11 games. He has made 82 starts in center this year, missing two games in June with bruised ribs.

Manager Lee Mazzilli said he didn't have any plans to sit Matos today. "We'll see how the day goes," he said, "but there's nothing that's past [last night] right now."

Matos' average never dipped below .300 last season after the Orioles recalled him in late May.

"The whole year I haven't been consistent like I was last year," said Matos, who entered as a defensive replacement in the ninth inning last night. "I need to stay strong mentally. That's what I'm doing right now. I can't let it pull me down.

"They gave me a chance to play every day and I'm not doing the job right now. I'm not helping the team win."

He took last night's benching in stride.

"Maybe they're trying to do something different," he said. "They've been throwing me out there every day, and it's not working. I can't argue about it. I have a lot of at-bats. I guess I need to keep coming to the ballpark and wait until they put me in the lineup."

Hitting coach Terry Crowley said he expects Matos to rebound in the second half and salvage the season.

"He'll still get it together," Crowley said. "He's a smart kid, a good player. He's been playing this game since he was little. He knows there are ups and downs in the game, and he's going through a little bit of a down.

"So much of this game is mental. When you feel like hits are coming and you feel good about yourself, that's when you get hits. If you think too much and you step in the batter's box and feel like they have 14 guys on defense, it's different. This is how your mind plays tricks on you when you're trying to hit for a living."

When Matos stays on top of the ball, is patient and allows himself to get a good look at it, he has good swings.

"I can tell you a ton of times where he lined out," Crowley said. "A hit here or there could get you rolling, and psychologically it makes you feel better about yourself."

Mazzilli said he doesn't intend to shift Larry Bigbie to center.

Segui on his way back

The Orioles will send David Segui on an injury rehabilitation assignment within the next few days, and he expects to rejoin the club after playing two or three games.

"That's all I ever need," said Segui, who underwent surgery on his left knee May 11. "It's something I don't foresee taking too long."

Segui could leave the team after the two-game series in Kansas City that ends Tuesday, but probably no later.

Meanwhile, Sidney Ponson threw in the bullpen again yesterday before making tomorrow's start in Kansas City. "That's probably the best he's felt in a while," Mazzilli said.

Newhan still a hit

If not for a pinch-hitting appearance in Philadelphia, David Newhan could have taken a 24-game hitting streak into last night's game.

Newhan flied out July 4 after batting for Chad Mottola in the ninth inning of a 5-2 loss. He led off the inning, and the move ended his 15-game hitting streak. He had hit in nine straight before going 0-for-4 last night.

"It was a National League game and you've got to make a lot more moves. And that was the move to make. We're trying to win games," said Newhan, who's batting .412.

"Streaks are kind of overrated sometimes. They're fun and a little bit of a novelty, I guess. You want them because you're playing every night and showing consistency, but they don't really mean much if you're 1-for-5 or 1-for-4."

With third baseman Melvin Mora expected in the lineup today, Newhan will need to find at-bats in the outfield or as the designated hitter. Either way, he's not too concerned with streaks.

"I'm probably not going to break [Joe] DiMaggio's record anyway," he said.

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