Given a lesser role, Kline keeps chin up

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

He wishes Byrdak well as No. 1 lefty out of 'pen

Whiteside gets first hit

Notebook

July 10, 2005|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

Orioles reliever Steve Kline said he hasn't lost his confidence, even as his season continues on a downward spiral. The latest hit came before Friday's game when manager Lee Mazzilli informed Kline he'll likely be the lefty out of the bullpen used in less crucial roles and recent call-up Tim Byrdak will be used in tight spots to get left-handers out.

The Orioles had signed Kline in the offseason to a two-year, $5.6 million contract for that exact purpose. However, Mazzilli has apparently run out of patience with Kline, who is being hit by lefties at a .339 rate.

"He can use [Byrdak] all he wants," said Kline, who is 2-3 with a 5.57 ERA. "Good luck to the kid. I hope he throws well. That's what he's here for. I haven't done the job. It's kind of a [low blow], but you have to go and pitch. That's the way I am going to take it."

Byrdak, 31, has a 4.15 ERA in four appearances since his contract was purchased from Triple-A Ottawa. He gave up two runs in the eighth inning Friday. Kline, who pitched a scoreless ninth, did seem slightly annoyed that he was given the news 20 minutes before Friday's game, according to him, though it hardly came as a surprise.

"No one in the world wants to hear excuses how you pitched bad," said Kline, 32, a nine-year veteran. "When I pitch bad, I [stink]. When I pitch good, we don't get recognized. That's the way of the bullpen. You just have to keep playing. Every time I take the ball, I am confident. They don't know me that well yet in that office to know how I think."

Mazzilli is hoping that Kline can build off his scoreless inning.

"I want to get his feet back on the ground," Mazzilli said. "Nothing is permanent ... but I just may use him first out of the bullpen right now."

Asked about his confidence, Kline said: "I am here and I'm alive. That's a good start, right? There are worse things. I could be digging ditches and working hard for a living, but I am playing ball. I am still happy for that part."

Welcome for Whiteside

His official baptism to the big leagues came in the seventh inning Tuesday when Eli Whiteside had to face the New York Yankees' Randy Johnson in his first major league at-bat. Whiteside grounded into a double play.

Yesterday, in his first career start, things went considerably better for the catcher who was recalled from Ottawa last Sunday when Geronimo Gil went on the disabled list. Playing in front of five of his family members, who were in town from Mississippi, Whiteside went 1-for-4 in the Orioles' 9-1 victory over the Boston Red Sox.

He blooped a single to right field off Boston reliever Scott Cassidy in the eighth inning to score Larry Bigbie and pick up his first major league hit and RBI with one swing. Later in the inning, he scored his first run on a double by Miguel Tejada.

"It looked pretty falling in there," Whiteside said of his bloop hit. "It's a line drive in the box score."

The 25-year-old's work behind the plate also earned raves from winning pitcher Bruce Chen.

"He was great," Chen said. "I went out there and told him how I wanted to pitch the guys, but in the fourth or fifth inning, he started taking over. He said, `OK, just follow me.' He called a very good game."

Palmeiro to get more rest

Rafael Palmeiro, who had two hits yesterday and now has 2,997 for his career, wants to reach 3,000 so he no longer has to field questions about it. Mazzilli wants him to reach it so he has more freedom to give the 40-year-old first baseman days off.

Injuries and the quest for the milestone have contributed to Palmeiro's playing in 85 of the Orioles' 86 games this year.

"We'll be able to pick his spots a little more going into the second half," Mazzilli said. "Being a little healthier ... it's all going to play a role. I think it will just make [Palmeiro] stronger."

Around the horn

The 49,331 at yesterday's game represented the fourth-largest crowd in Camden Yards history and was the biggest of the season. ... Both Chen and Boston's Wade Miller threw 108 pitches and 66 strikes. ... The Orioles had 14 hits yesterday, the most since June 13 against the Houston Astros. ... Red Sox center fielder Johnny Damon extended his hitting streak to a career-high 24 games with a third-inning single.

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