Tampa Bay doesn't top Julio's list of places to visit


Tropicana Field is house of horrors for O's reliever


April 11, 2005|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - Maybe it's the lighting, or the hitters, or just bad luck.

Orioles reliever Jorge Julio has a surplus of theories regarding his past difficulties at Tropicana Field. If only he could find one solution.

Ready or not, Julio will confront his demons again when the Orioles begin a three-game series tomorrow against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. If the past is any indication, he'll probably load the bases with them.

Julio had four blown saves last season, three of them coming against Tampa Bay. For his career, he's 5-for-10 in save chances beneath the dome.

"I don't know what happens. It's mental or something," he said before yesterday's 7-2 victory over the New York Yankees.

"Sometimes I can't see the field that good."

His most recent implosion came Aug. 31, when Aubrey Huff hit a game-tying, bases-empty homer in the ninth inning. The Orioles won, 10-6, in 12 innings.

After that game, Julio said: "All the time we come in here, I don't know what happens with this team."

Even his successes are accompanied by drama. Julio filled the bases before recording a save in a 5-4 win on July 15.

At that time, his three blown saves came on home runs, and his career ERA at Tropicana Field stood at 8.44. It's down to 7.36 heading into this series.

"All the time with the Devil Rays, it's two, three, four blown saves a year," said Julio, who's 3-3 with a 6.46 ERA in 29 career games against Tampa Bay.

No longer the Orioles' closer, Julio will try to navigate through the eighth innings without capsizing.

"Maybe that will change my luck," he said. "Before, it was like, `Julio's coming into the ninth,' and everyone's ready to go."

Busy week for Roberts

Though he stands out as the Orioles' leader in home runs with three, Brian Roberts wouldn't mind melting into the background this week.

Since Thursday, Roberts has been involved in a mix-up at first base that contributed to a loss, missed a suicide squeeze bunt that led to an out, and saw his nose bloodied by Alex Rodriguez.

He also homered in consecutive games and went deep again yesterday, so it wasn't all bad.

"I didn't ask to be in the center of it," he said. "That's for sure."

Roberts stayed in the lineup yesterday after Rodriguez accidentally struck him in the nose while breaking up a double play during Saturday's game.

"I'm all right," Roberts said. "It's a little sore."

The Orioles want to keep his bat in the lineup. He is hitting .400 with six RBIs.

Staying together

The Yankees family really is a tight-knit group.

Lee Mazzilli and Yankees manager Joe Torre placed separate calls Saturday to Willie Randolph, whose first season as New York Mets manager began with five straight losses. Mazzilli and Randolph were part of Torre's coaching staff.

"You're going to go through losing streaks," Mazzilli said. "When you lose five straight during the season, it's no big deal. But when you lose five in a row at the beginning of the year, then it's a huge issue.

"I just told him to stay positive. That's all you can do."

Moving up on hit list

With three hits, Rafael Palmeiro moved past Al Simmons into 32nd place on the all-time list with 2,928.

Palmeiro raised his batting average from .200 to .316.

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