Gibbons sees few hits with contacts


He removes them, doubles in his first at-bat

Lopez sits again with sore back


August 26, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

OAKLAND, Calif. - Orioles right fielder Jay Gibbons used to have perfect vision. Better than 20/20, in fact. Every time he had his eyes checked, it was 20/15.

But when the Orioles sent him on his recent minor league rehabilitation assignment, he noticed a definite difference. He had a much harder time seeing the ball under the dimmer lights in Bowie and Frederick ballparks.

He had his eyes checked, and sure enough, it was 20/25.

So the Orioles fitted him for contact lenses last week, and starting Aug. 17, he began wearing them for games. He said he could definitely see better, but he was having a hard time adjusting to the dryness in his eyes.

He went hitless in 13 straight at-bats to end the homestand, and then came to Oakland, where the winds at Network Associates Coliseum started giving him fits. He was using eye drops almost every inning, until Tuesday night, when he decided it had to stop.

"After my second at-bat, I yanked them out," Gibbons said.

He struck out twice against Mark Mulder with the contacts in, and then doubled in his first at-bat after taking them out. He struck out again against Arthur Rhodes in the eighth inning, but he decided to leave the contacts out for the rest of the series in Oakland. Without them, he was 1-for-3 last night. He will probably try the contacts again tomorrow in Texas.

"I was seeing pretty good at home, but I was 0-for-18 with the contacts," he said before last night's game. "I took them out and went 1-for-2."

This eyesight dilemma is the latest twist on a trying season for Gibbons, who is batting .208 with six home runs and 30 RBIs. He has been on the disabled list twice - once for a herniated disc in his back, and once for a torn hip flexor muscle.

After returning from the DL the second time, he has just five hits in 38 at-bats, and it still looks like he's having a hard time finishing off his swing from the back and hip injuries.

Gibbons said his double off Mulder "was the first ball I've really turned on in a while and felt like I had anything on it. The outs I'm making now are soft outs."

But Gibbons said he still hopes to get his swing right and finish the season strong. A year ago, he hit .277 with 23 home runs and 100 RBIs.

"I'm just hoping he can have one [breakout] game and get himself out of it," Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli said. "You go with him because he's been through that before."

Lopez's back still sore

Javy Lopez missed his second straight game with lower back spasms and said this is the first time in his career a back injury has kept him out of service.

Lopez aggravated the back when he hopped from his position to field a swinging bunt by Bobby Crosby in the sixth inning of Monday's game.

"I felt a little bit better, but not good enough to play," Lopez said. "I don't want to make it worse."

Robert Machado got his second straight start behind the plate, and Mazzilli said if he needed an emergency catcher it would be B.J. Surhoff.

Around the horn

The Orioles have signed new two-year working agreements with Triple-A Ottawa, Double-A Bowie, Single-A Frederick and Single-A Delmarva through 2006. Their current agreement with short-season Single-A Aberdeen also runs for two more years, and they don't need an agreement with rookie-level Bluefield because they are part owners of the team. ... To make room on their roster for last night's starter, Bruce Chen, the Orioles optioned reliever Eddy Rodriguez to Ottawa and moved Luis Matos from the 15-day to the 60-day disabled list. Rodriguez will likely be back when rosters are expanded in September.

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