Surhoff: rare starts, but job well done

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Veteran a key contributor to recent wins

`I prepare myself to play every day'

Notebook

April 27, 2005|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

BOSTON - B.J. Surhoff is admittedly not a patient person, so this season has been a test for the 19-year major leaguer. Surhoff, 40, comes to the ballpark every day not knowing if he'll be in the lineup or, if he is, where he'll be playing.

Essentially a regular starter by the end of last year, Surhoff has started only seven of the Orioles' first 21 games this year - one at first base and six in left field.

"Has it been tough? That's what I have," Surhoff said. "It's either I do that or go home. I prepare myself to play every day. Fortunately the coaching staff and [manager Lee Mazzilli] have continued to have confidence in me, and I think they've done a good job getting everybody involved."

Mazzilli has lauded Surhoff on several occasions for being a "pro," and the veteran has rewarded his manager's faith in big spots. On Saturday in Toronto, Surhoff's throw from left field in the seventh inning of a one-run game, cutting down Alex Rios at the plate, essentially saved the Orioles' 4-1 victory.

In the series opener here Monday, Surhoff had two hits, including a two-run homer off Red Sox left-hander David Wells. He also made a key defensive play, playing Ramon Vazquez's shot off the Green Monster perfectly and throwing the Red Sox third baseman out at second trying to stretch it into a double in the fourth inning.

"How many guys from visiting teams come in and make that play?" said Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts. "He prepares better than anybody I've ever seen. That's the bottom line. He does everything every single day the way he needs to do it to be ready to play."

Surhoff knows he's not alone. David Newhan burst on the scene last year, hitting .311 and playing nearly every day by season's end. He has started only four games this year. Chris Gomez hit .282 in 109 games as the Blue Jays' utility man last season, but with Roberts, Miguel Tejada and Melvin Mora manning the infield, he has been relegated to starting just three games, all at first base.

"We have good big league players," said Surhoff, who is hitting .194 with one homer and two RBIs. "Opportunities will come. You try to be patient. It makes it tough when you don't get off to a good start, but you are glad that the manager has confidence in you, and it's a long haul, and eventually you are going to right your ship."

No flashbacks for Matos

If nothing else, the trip to Fenway Park has reminded Orioles center fielder Luis Matos how nice it is to be healthy again.

It was here last year, on July 21, when Matos' season ended. While making a leaping catch to rob Johnny Damon, Matos caught his right cleat on the Green Monster, fracturing his already injured right shin. After his third season-ending injury in four years, Matos needed a titanium rod and screw inserted in his tibia to fix the damage.

On Monday night, Matos, who is hitting .339, jumped into the wall, trying to catch Jason Varitek's eighth-inning double.

"That doesn't even cross my mind when I go for the ball," Matos said when asked if he had gotten flashbacks from last season. "That's the only way that I know how to play. I don't play scared or I don't play hiding to get hurt. I just went to the ball and I hit the wall. I was a little sore in my back, that's it."

Sosa yet to have day off

Mazzilli acknowledged that he'd like to get Sammy Sosa, 36, a day off, but he isn't sure when. Sosa has played in every game, all but one in right field. He served as the Orioles' designated hitter April 17 against the New York Yankees.

"DH-ing takes you off your feet for most of the game, but it's not really giving him a day off," Mazzilli said. "I asked him already and he doesn't want it. He says he feels good. I wanted to give him a day off last Sunday [against Toronto] and he hit two home runs."

Wells placed on DL

The Red Sox put Wells, who sprained his right foot Monday night, on the 15-day disabled list.

Manager Terry Francona said the 41-year-old left-hander will be sidelined for up to six weeks but won't need surgery.

Wells was hurt when he tried to field Javy Lopez's slow roller. Wells hobbled back to the mound but remained in the game for five more batters before leaving.

Francona said left-hander John Halama will take Wells' spot in the rotation and start Tuesday in Detroit, and Boston called up left-hander Lenny DiNardo from Triple-A Pawtucket to take Wells' roster spot.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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