Position switch leaves Hairston out in center field


His reaction: `It's just hard to believe I'm not going to be playing second base'


August 01, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - Unable to resolve their crowded second base situation with a deal before yesterday's non-waiver trade deadline, the Orioles came up with another solution: putting Jerry Hairston in center field.

Manager Lee Mazzilli kept Brian Roberts at second base yesterday and moved Hairston to center field, saying the move could last at least until injured center fielder Luis Matos returns from the disabled list.

"It's just hard to believe I'm not going to be playing second base the rest of the year," Hairston said after his team's 6-4 loss to the New York Yankees. "I'm a little shocked right now. But hey, there are worse tragedies in the world."

Mazzilli spoke with Hairston before making the decision.

"He was excited about it," Mazzilli said. "I'm going to put him in center field and see where it takes us."

Matos hasn't played since he banged his tender right shin against the Green Monster at Fenway Park while making a running catch July 21 against the Boston Red Sox. He had a hairline stress fracture in the same shin during spring training and hit himself in the exact same spot.

Matos would be eligible to come off the DL on Aug. 6, but he tried running Thursday, and was still sore. Even before the injury, the Orioles were considering alternatives in center field, with Matos slumping to a .224 batting average.

"When he gets back, we'll see where we're at," Mazzilli said. "Luis is still our center fielder. It's going to be awhile [until he returns], I think."

Mazzilli also put Hairston in the leadoff spot yesterday, sliding Roberts to ninth. Hairston went 2-for-5 with a home run, and Roberts went 1-for-4.

Talks with Twins fizzle

The Orioles had talks with the Minnesota Twins yesterday before the Twins moved first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz to the Boston Red Sox in the four-way deal that sent Nomar Garciaparra to the Chicago Cubs, major league sources said.

The Twins were trying to add a starting pitcher after missing out on Kris Benson, and they had interest in Orioles starter Rodrigo Lopez. But as Orioles officials had been predicting, the non-waiver deadline passed without a deal.

Palmeiro gets a break

After starting 95 of the first 101 games at first base and another as the designated hitter, Rafael Palmeiro was benched yesterday, even with the team facing right-hander Javier Vazquez.

Palmeiro, 39, grounded out to second base against Yankees closer Mariano Rivera in the ninth, extending his hitless streak to 15 at-bats and lowering his average to .244. After hitting at least 38 home runs in each of the past nine seasons, he is on pace to hit just 21 this season.

B.J. Surhoff got the start at first base yesterday and could play there more as the Orioles try to determine if more rest can help cure Palmeiro's slump.

Rios linked to scandal

Armando Rios, an outfielder who spent time with the Orioles' Triple-A Ottawa affiliate last month, told a federal agent last year that he obtained performance enhancing drugs from Greg Anderson, a trainer who is under indictment in the BALCO steroid scandal, the San Francisco Chronicle reported yesterday.

Rios, a former San Francisco Giants outfielder, hit .341 in 13 games with Ottawa before getting traded to the St. Louis Cardinals last week for future considerations.

Orioles minor league director Doc Rodgers said Rios did not have any problems during his brief stint in the organization and was traded simply because the team had a glut of outfielders at Ottawa once Tim Raines and Darnell McDonald were sent down.

Rios' attorney, Chris Cannon would not comment on allegations.

In another development, memos detailed claims by John McEwen, the second-ranked U.S. hammer thrower in 2003, and San Francisco State University sprint coaches Kenny McDaniel and LaKiesha Givens.

The three allegedly told an IRS special agent they acquired drugs from Victor Conte, owner of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative.

"Everyone is taking it," McDaniel claims Conte told him of a drug called "rocket fuel," according to the memo.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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