Relieved Kline gets decision in O's 5-1 win

Pitcher redeems himself after remarks, beats Rays

April 14, 2005|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Orioles reliever Steve Kline faced one batter last night, recorded the out and didn't make anyone angry. He was suitable for print, without the inflammatory remarks. That in itself was a victory, shortly before he earned an official one.

At the center of a small controversy earlier in the day, Kline got the last laugh, and his first favorable decision with the Orioles, when Brian Roberts singled in the seventh inning to break a tie and spark a 5-1 win over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Still the surprise team leader in home runs, Roberts reverted to his old form, scoring Chris Gomez for a 2-1 lead. Gomez and Geronimo Gil, reserves who were given starts against Devil Rays left-hander Mark Hendrickson, singled with one out before Roberts delivered.

Miguel Tejada added a two-run double, and he scored on Sammy Sosa's single, as the Orioles (5-3) moved two games above .500 for the first time this season.

Javy Lopez hit his first home run, pulling a 3-1 pitch from Hendrickson into the left-field seats to tie the game in the sixth. He's 8-for-17 with two homers lifetime against the Devil Rays" starter.

The day began with Kline (1-1) doing a little damage control inside the visitor's clubhouse, a meeting held at his request to explain comments he made in a St. Louis newspaper about regretting his decision to sign with the Orioles.

Bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks hugged Kline and said, 'Daddy still loves you." A teammate, also finding the whole situation amusing, said, "Unlike Kline, I'm happy here. Cut me, and I bleed orange."

Kline, who received some unwanted attention last year for flipping off Cardinals manager Tony La Russa in the bullpen, joked that his new haircut was intended to avoid being recognized for his own safety.

Reliever John Parrish went a step further by shaving his entire head, providing a far greater distraction than Kline's printed remarks.

"I just wanted to change things up and get some laughs." he said. "I've gotten more "You need a little sun up there" than I have compliments."

So much for a team being torn apart by controversy.

Kline bailed out Steve Reed in the sixth, striking out Aubrey Huff with runners on the corners and two outs. He got ahead 0-2, ran the count full and went off-speed to retire Huff.

Sosa had his own distractions, though none that he couldn't handle. A small group of fans in right field unfurled a banner that read: "Cork that syringe." an attempt at humor tied to his suspension in 2003 for using a doctored bat, and the steroid allegations in Jose Canseco's tell-all book.

Their verbal taunts were easily heard, echoing through a mostly empty building. They could have whispered their insults and gotten the left fielder's attention.

Tropicana Field lacked atmosphere, and runs, until the fifth inning.

Julio Lugo and Huff opened with singles against left-hander Erik Bedard, and Lugo took third on Josh Phelps" fly ball. He broke for home on Jorge Cantu's grounder to Melvin Mora, and slid past catcher Geronimo Gil, who failed to block the plate after taking the throw ahead of Lugo.

Bedard threw 102 pitches in five innings, three fewer than his first outing, when he lasted through the seventh. On both occasions, he left with the game tied 1-1.

Six of the first eight batters reached against Bedard, who needed a double play in the first inning to avoid falling behind.

Bedard walked Eduardo Perez to open the second. Alex Gonzalez lined a single to right and Toby Hall looped one into center field, loading the bases with none out.

Unable to tie Tuesday night's game in the ninth after putting runners on the corners with none out, the Devil Rays sputtered again when Joey Gathright bounced into a force at home, Carl Crawford flied to shallow left and Lugo grounded to third.

Facing their fourth left- handed starter in eight games, the Orioles broke out the same lineup used against New York Yankees" Randy Johnson on Saturday. One player referred to it as the "Big Unit lineup." with Gil catching, Lopez serving as the designated hitter and Gomez playing first base. Rafael Palmeiro, Jay Gibbons and Larry Bigbie, a combined 5-for-43 against Henderickson, were benched.

Hendrickson, the former NBA forward who rivals Johnson in height, has more wins (four) against the Orioles than any other team. He was 2-2 with a 3.41 ERA in five starts last year.

"For whatever reason." Mazzilli said, "this kid has given us trouble."

Kline caused a little of his own yesterday. He asked for forgiveness, then made sure he received it.

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