Orioles activate Gibbons from DL

Outfielder gets in game as pinch hitter in ninth

August 11, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

ANAHEIM, Calif. - With two hours remaining before last night's game, Orioles outfielder Jay Gibbons still didn't know whether he was going to be activated from the disabled list. He sat next to Luis Lopez on a couch in the visitors' clubhouse at Angel Stadium, waiting to hear something, wondering if the news would ever come.

The suspense wasn't killing him, but it sure had gotten a little uncomfortable.

Finally, a team official pointed toward Gibbons and motioned for him to see manager Lee Mazzilli.

"Me?" Lopez asked, before realizing he hadn't been summoned to Mazzilli's office. "Don't scare me like that, bro."

Lopez didn't get cut. The Orioles activated Gibbons and designated catcher Ken Huckaby for assignment.

Gibbons went on the disabled list June 29 with a partial tear in his left hip flexor.

"I know they've got a good thing going right now," he said. "I'm available if they need me. I've just got to wait and bide my time."

Gibbons was batting .223 with six homers and 28 RBIs before last night, when he struck out as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning. Bothered by lower-back spasms that eventually affected his hip, he was 6-for-45 (.133) in 14 games after coming off the disabled list for the first time on June 14.

The Orioles sent him to Single-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie as part of an injury rehab assignment that didn't produce many hits. He was 3-for-21 before rejoining the Orioles on Monday and making the trip to Anaheim.

"I can definitely feel a difference. My hips are exploding a lot more," he said. "The trouble I've been having the last couple of weeks is finding the old swing. You do so much just to try to get by and compensate for being hurt. Now it's going back and finding what I've done my whole life and just let it go and have fun.

"I have good swings and bad swings right now. Hopefully, I can get it back real quick. It feels like spring training."

Gibbons didn't see any benefit to staying in the minors.

"I gave it a week. It wasn't like it was two days," he said. "I gave it a good 20 at-bats or so. I didn't say a word. They called me up. I just said whenever they wanted me, I'd be available. I'm happy they did."

The trick now is getting him in the lineup. Mazzilli might be hesitant to sit Larry Bigbie, B.J. Surhoff and David Newhan, all left-handed hitters.

"He's going to play, there's no question," Mazzilli said. "But right now we're playing well, and you want to keep the guys in there who are hot. It's a good problem to have."

The Orioles acquired Huckaby on waivers July 6 so they would have an extra catcher, making it easier, in theory, to rest Javy Lopez by using him as the designated hitter. But Huckaby appeared in only eight games, going 2-for-12 (.167).

"That's baseball," he said. "They brought me in to spell Javy and I did that a little bit. They had a luxury of carrying three for a while, but with Jay coming back, that luxury ran out."

The Orioles have 10 days to trade or waive him. If he clears waivers, Huckaby indicated that he'd accept an outright assignment to Triple-A Ottawa rather than become a free agent.

"More than likely I'll stay here," he said. "It's still a great opportunity."

If he stays in the organization, Huckaby could rejoin the team when rosters expand Sept. 1.

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