Down since July 22, injured Matos tries to keep spirits up

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

On DL since that time, outfielder might not get his everyday job back

August 02, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- With Jerry Hairston assuming what could be an everyday role as the Orioles' center fielder this weekend, Luis Matos tried not to get discouraged.

It wasn't easy.

Matos has been on the disabled list since July 22 with a bruised right shin, and he said a recent X-ray showed the return of a hairline stress fracture, which first appeared during spring training.

He hasn't been able to run without pain and said he probably won't be ready to return when he's eligible to come off the DL on Friday.

Even when Matos gets healthy, Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli can't guarantee he'll get his everyday job back. After establishing himself last season by hitting .303 in 439 at-bats, Matos has sputtered this year, batting .224 in 330 at-bats.

"I take it like a professional," Matos said of the Hairston decision. "You can't control those things. I just need to get healthy and wait for my chance."

Matos has compared video from this season and last season, and he sees no noticeable difference in his swing. Hitting coach Terry Crowley said Matos has hit a lot of balls hard but right at people.

"The whole first half, I didn't show up like I did last year," Matos said. "I can't argue with them. I've had 300 at-bats. This year has just been crazy. But I don't give up. I'm strong mentally. I'm only 25 years old, and I know what happened last year wasn't luck."

Palmeiro's plight

Mazzilli put Rafael Palmeiro back in the lineup yesterday after giving him a breather Saturday. Palmeiro came in riding an 0-for-15 slump but had a big day, going 3-for-3 with two walks, three runs and his 14th homer of the season.

With Palmeiro experiencing a sudden drop-off in his production this season, Mazzilli said he thinks it has been more mental than anything.

"I don't think it's mechanical, I just think he's fighting himself right now," Mazzilli said. "He's a guy that has been so successful, that when he struggles a little bit, I think he kind of fights himself because he really wants to do more. You're talking about a Hall of Fame guy, and he's got a lot to live up to."

Gibbons resumes action

Jay Gibbons, who has been on the DL since June 29 with a strained left hip flexor, will begin his minor league rehabilitation assignment tonight with Single-A Frederick.

The plan is for Gibbons to spend three games with Frederick and report to Double-A Bowie on Friday for an undetermined time. He will return to the Orioles as soon as he gets his timing back.

Mazzilli said he would like Gibbons to get about 15 to 20 at-bats before returning.

Wiley in scouting role

Former Orioles pitching coach Mark Wiley has agreed to be re-assigned within the organization and will begin evaluating the team's minor league pitchers this month.

Wiley, who was replaced by Ray Miller on June 26, will also do some professional scouting late in the season, as the Orioles try to determine which free-agent pitchers they'd like to pursue in the fall.

Pitching plans

Even with open dates today and Thursday, the Orioles plan to keep their starting rotation intact this week. Sidney Ponson and Dave Borkowski will pitch in tomorrow's doubleheader against the Seattle Mariners.

Daniel Cabrera will pitch Wednesday, followed by Erik Bedard on Friday and Rodrigo Lopez on Saturday against the Texas Rangers.

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