Garcia blasts off with 2 homers

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Glad to be off Mets bench, new Oriole makes impact

Ponson changes for better

July 21, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Karim Garcia welcomed the trade that brought him to the Orioles from the New York Mets this week, even if it meant going from a team challenging for first place to one fighting to stay out of last.

Garcia hit .305 in 52 games after getting traded to the New York Yankees last season, and he signed with the Mets last winter, expecting to parlay that success into more playing time.

"My stay with the Mets was pretty good," Garcia said, "but when we got Richard Hidalgo [from the Houston Astros], I knew my time was going to be limited to pinch-hit at-bats, and that's not what I signed for. Here, I'll probably get a little more playing time."

Manager Lee Mazzilli told the left-handed-hitting Garcia he can expect to play against right-handers, and if that goes well, he'll get to face lefties, as well.

So far, so good.

Garcia got his first chance yesterday, starting in center field in place of the slumping Luis Matos before moving to right field after Jerry Hairston got injured. Garcia hit a two-run homer off Kansas City starter Zack Greinke in the third inning and a three-run shot off Dennys Reyes in the sixth.

It was the sixth two-homer game of Garcia's career.

Tonight, he'll face Boston's Pedro Martinez for the first time since Martinez drilled him with a fastball in Game 3 of last year's American League Championship Series, leading to a bench-clearing brawl.

Ponson's change

Pitching coach Ray Miller is as hopeful as anyone that Sidney Ponson turned his season around with Monday's victory over the Royals. Miller said he saw some encouraging signs.

Ponson had been relying too heavily on his fastball and slider earlier this season, so the scouting reports told hitters to go to the plate and wait for something fast. Basically, Ponson had abandoned his changeup and hardly ever threw his curveball.

But Ponson used his curveball to induce a double-play grounder to first base in the fifth inning, and then used his changeup to get a grounder to second for the final out.

"It's hard. When you've been in a slump, you don't want to get beat with your third or fourth pitch," Miller said. "But my idea is, if you use your third or fourth pitches, your first two pitches will be better."

Ponson was excited to call former Orioles pitcher Scott Erickson, who returned to the mound Monday night for the first time since Aug. 31, 2002, and held the Florida Marlins to one earned run over six innings.

"I'm happy for him," Ponson said. "Coming back from [rotator cuff] surgery, and then having the hamstring injury, he really threw the ball well."

Appreciation for Ryan

Orioles reliever B.J. Ryan hadn't surrendered a home run in more than a year until Ken Harvey took him deep in the eighth inning Monday. The last home run Ryan had given came June 30, 2003, against the New York Yankees' Ruben Sierra.

It was a remarkable streak, spanning 81 appearances and 75 2/3 innings. Ryan broke the franchise record for consecutive appearances without allowing a home run. Don Stanhouse held the record of 63 appearances from 1978 to 1979.

"I came in after the game, and said, `You are human,' " Mazzilli said. "He's been phenomenal."

Ryan might be the Orioles' most valuable trade commodity, but Mazzilli can hardly imagine life without him. Asked if he considered Ryan untouchable, Mazzilli said, "You'd like to think that, sure. He's not a guy we're looking to trade."

Pitching plans

The Orioles will bring back Dave Borkowski on three days' rest to pitch the second game of tomorrow's doubleheader against the Red Sox. Rodrigo Lopez will pitch the first game and another pitcher - likely Bruce Chen or John Maine from Triple-A Ottawa - will be called up to make a spot start Friday against Minnesota.

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