Surhoff ready for role-playing

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Veteran will go `wherever they ask me to play'

February 26, 2005|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Whether he's working on a minor league contract or a major league deal, Orioles outfielder B.J. Surhoff is secure about his status on the club. Once he signs, he's going to play.

At least Surhoff's contract was guaranteed when he arrived at camp earlier this week, unlike the past two springs. But either way, he doesn't expect to be looking for another job next month.

"I didn't have any doubts the last few years that I'd be on the team," he said, "and I don't have any doubts this year."

The only question centers on his role. Can he win a starting job in the outfield - perhaps in left field if Larry Bigbie moves to center - or will he be a reserve?

"I really don't know what situation they'll put me in, how they'll use me," Surhoff said. "These things usually have a way of working themselves out. I'll be prepared to play wherever they ask me to play."

Well, almost anyplace. He does have his limits.

"Except for catcher, pitcher, shortstop and second," he added. "Second is more of a possibility. No, I take that back. I'd rather play short than second."

As long as his bat is in the lineup.

Despite missing more than a month with a calf injury, Surhoff, now 40, hit better than .300 for the third time in his career, and exceeded .290 for the eighth time. Manager Lee Mazzilli pointed out this winter how Surhoff carried the team for extended stretches.

How much longer is he willing to tote so much weight? Surhoff hasn't set a definite date to retire, choosing instead to gauge his health, interest and productivity after each season. The youngest of his four children, daughter Jordan, turned 10 earlier this month, and the tug of family always has been strong.

"There's a whole other component in my life that I have to take into account," he said.

Newhan has job security

In the past four months, Mazzilli and vice president Mike Flanagan have stated that outfielder David Newhan's place on the Orioles' roster is assured. It's one fewer worry for a player who has a lot on his mind these days.

Newhan and his wife, Karen, celebrated the arrival of their first baby, Nico Angelo, on Jan. 4. Spring training has brought a difficult separation, and it doesn't figure to get any easier.

"I haven't had to go on that first road trip yet, when you're away for an extended period of time," he said. "I know it's going to be tough. There will be a lot of phone calls, and hopefully I'll have the laptop and we can do Web cam. We definitely have to make it work, but it's just a part of the business.

"After 10 days, they have to come out and visit. That's probably a rule we'll have as long as I play. I think it will probably make everything better for us."

Unlike some husbands, Newhan, 31, didn't need a trip to Fort Lauderdale to find rest.

"I'm not the food source, so the late-night feedings aren't mine," he said. "She's been great about that. She's able to take the pressure off me, and I'm able to get my sleep."

Maine makes strides

Pitching coach Ray Miller noticed improvement in young right-hander John Maine last season. Not from game to game, necessarily, but from batter to batter.

Some things can't be taught.

"No matter what he has, when he gets in trouble, he gets a little bit better," Miller said. "A man on third, less than two outs, and suddenly he's a little bit better than he was before."

Maine, the organization's minor league Pitcher of the Year in 2003, made one start for the Orioles last season. Facing the Minnesota Twins, he allowed three runs in the second inning and was behind 4-1 in the fourth when Mazzilli went to his bullpen.

"The game he pitched up there, it's kind of tough to make a judgment," Miller said. "It was his first start and he was getting his feet on the ground. But he's a long-armed kid who hides the ball very well. You don't see it until it comes out of his hand. He's got a real high upside. He seems to be very intelligent. He has a great frame. He looks confident out there."

Maine spent most of last season at Triple-A Ottawa, where he'll probably begin 2005.

Asked about his chances of making the Orioles' rotation this spring, he said, "I guess there's a possibility because I'm here. But I just want to go out there and pitch well. Hopefully I make some heads turn."

O's vs. Nats on TV

The Orioles' exhibition game next Saturday against the Washington Nationals will be televised on Comcast SportsNet at 1 p.m.

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