O's Williams zeroes in on hitters

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Reliever has 0.00 ERA in 4 appearances, but he doesn't `look at numbers'

Notebook

April 15, 2005|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Put Orioles reliever Todd Williams in a setup or closer's role, and his successes would stand out. Have him enter games in the middle innings, almost without notice, and the accolades tend to miss him.

And that's just the way Williams wants it.

The right-hander hasn't permitted a run in 18 of his past 19 games dating back to last season. His 0.00 ERA this season has covered four appearances.

"I don't look at numbers," he said. "If there's a stat sheet in front of me, I push it aside. The guys gave me a hard time about it last year."

No harder than Williams has been on opposing hitters.

He's allowed one hit and one walk in five innings, and opponents are batting .063 against him.

"Todd is a guy who can get you a ground ball if you need it," Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli said. "He's done a great job since he's been here."

Williams beat out nonroster invitee Jay Witasick for the last bullpen spot in spring training - again failing to surrender a run. He was 2-0 with a 2.87 ERA in 29 games last season, and his former team, the Texas Rangers, hoped to claim him on waivers if the Orioles released him.

No chance.

"He's an important guy," Mazzilli said. "You might need him in the middle of a game, but he could also match up in the seventh or eighth inning, as well." Williams would prefer to remain anonymous among his bullpen brethren. Too much notice might lead to some sort of jinx.

"Once you look at your numbers," he said, "it seems like they double over night."

Newhan starts in center

Attached to the Orioles' bench this season, David Newhan made only his second start last night. Newhan returned to center field, where he made his first career appearance on April 7 against the Oakland Athletics.

Luis Matos was missing from the lineup despite batting .348 (8-for-23) with a double, triple, homer, five RBIs and six runs scored.

With Matos staying so hot, Newhan has been the odd-man out.

"You've got to find ways to get him in. It was the same way [Wednesday] with B.J. [Surhoff]," Mazzilli said.

Gil back on bench

Backup catcher Geronimo Gil returned to the bench last night, but he's been a productive substitute for Javy Lopez.

In four appearances, including two starts, Gil is 4-for-9 with one RBI and one run scored.

"Since spring training, I've liked what I've seen," Mazzilli said. "I know for a fact that he really worked hard over the winter. He busted his tail. He had something to prove and it shows. He's doing a very good job."

Rays' Sanchez returns

Center fielder Alex Sanchez returned to the Devil Rays yesterday after testing positive for a banned performance-enhancing substance and serving a 10-game suspension. He batted third for the only time in his career.

"I'm done with my suspension, so now I'll just focus on playing baseball," he said. "I'm leaving everything else behind."

Asked about his time off, Sanchez said it was "a long, long, long 10 days."

"I lost a lot of playing time," he added. "Now I have to work harder than before to get myself ready. A lot of my teammates told me they're happy to see me in the lineup tonight."

Manager Lou Piniella was happy with the way Sanchez handled his absence and return.

"I think he's been positive in his comments. I think there's been remorse in his comments," Piniella said.

"It's not like he has to defend that he hit 55 home runs last year or anything. He made a mistake. He paid for it and now let's leave the kid alone and let him play baseball."

Meanwhile, former Orioles catcher Charles Johnson made his first start with the Devil Rays after taking a five-day personal leave of absence. He returned to the club on Tuesday.

Johnson signed with Tampa Bay on April 4 after being released by the Boston Red Sox, who acquired him on March 30 for reliever Byung-Hyun Kim. He caught the last two innings of Wednesday's game.

Around the horn

Tomorrow's game against the New York Yankees is close to being a sellout. The other two games are expected to draw close to 40,000. ... John Maine will start Ottawa's home opener tomorrow against the Orioles' former affiliate, the Rochester Red Wings.

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