Being dealt by Rangers took Nivar by surprise

Orioles notebook

But newest Oriole says he's nervous and excited


April 01, 2005|By Dan Connolly | Dan Connolly,SUN STAFF

OKLAHOMA CITY - By the time Ramon Nivar finally made it to the SBC Bricktown Ballpark, a place he played most of last season, his new Orioles teammates were already on the field stretching.

Walking around an empty visitors clubhouse clutching his travel Bible and two new bats yesterday, Nivar, 25, said he was both nervous and excited to join a new organization.

He also was a bit taken aback that the Texas Rangers traded him Wednesday for Orioles left-hander Matt Riley, ending his career with the organization that signed him out of the Dominican Republic.

"I did not think they would trade me this year," Nivar said. "When they told me about it, it surprised me."

Still, he said he shouldn't have any trouble adjusting to a new club, where the second baseman/center fielder might be a better fit.

"I'm happy," Nivar said. "It's a big change and I loved Texas, but to change, it's no problem."

The Orioles would like to watch him in a game or two before Nivar is demoted to Triple-A Ottawa. Last night, he made his debut as a pinch runner for Miguel Tejada in the sixth inning of the exhibition game against the St. Louis Cardinals.

"I don't have room for him, but I'd like to see him a little bit," Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli said. "Our reports are good on him. He can do some things. But he's got to play. That's the thing he's got to do."

Nivar, a natural second baseman turned outfielder, was the Rangers' 2003 Minor League Player of the Year. He began 2004 with the Rangers, playing just seven games and batting .222 before being sent to Triple-A Oklahoma City. He never made it back to Texas last year.

At Oklahoma City, he had a career high for home runs with 10, but batted .264 with a .290 on-base average. He characterizes himself as a "line-drive hitter" with "so-so" base-running ability. Despite being considered one of the fastest players in Texas' organization, Nivar was just 15 of 30 in stolen-base attempts at Triple-A in 2004.

He said he made the switch to center field halfway through the 2003 season. With the Orioles seemingly set at second base with Brian Roberts, Nivar may be used in the outfield at Ottawa.

And that's fine with him. He just wants another chance to return to the big leagues.

"I want to play major league ball, but if they feel I need to go to Triple-A first, I understand," he said. "I'll go there without a problem."

Oklahoma gold rush

There's a simple reason the Cardinals and Orioles are playing a two-game series in Oklahoma City: money.

Unlike the revenue during the Grapefruit and Cactus League seasons, which is split among all teams, the revenue from the extra spring games is divided only among the two participants and the host stadium. Plus, the hosts pick up most of the travel costs.

So these games, and Sunday's in Philadelphia, help the Orioles defray expenses incurred during spring training. In recent years, they have played in Louisville, Ky., Birmingham, Ala., and Chattanooga, Tenn.

Chen pitches today

Bruce Chen, who originally was supposed to pitch last night in relief, will start today's game. He is competing with last night's starter, Rick Bauer, for the fifth starter's job. Mazzilli said he has decided who will be his fifth starter but hasn't told the pitcher, or the media, yet.

Mora, Roberts on schedule

Melvin Mora and Roberts should be ready for Monday's regular-season opener, Mazzilli said.

Mora (bruised hand) didn't make the trip but probably will be able to play Sunday in Philadelphia. Roberts (bruised shin) was held out last night but could have played if needed, the manager said.

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