J. Lopez finds ways to mask heat

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Catcher uses cool tunnel as refuge

Maine's zeros are a hot O's topic, too

Notebook

August 15, 2005|By Roch Kubatko and Kevin Van Valkenburg | Roch Kubatko and Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

The last two games of the Orioles' series against the Toronto Blue Jays were played in temperatures of 100 and 95 degrees, leaving fans fidgeting in their sweat-soaked shirts, but extremely thankful that they weren't the starting catcher.

It could have been so much more uncomfortable. At least they weren't wearing chest protectors, shin guards and masks. At least they weren't squatting and rising for nine innings.

Javy Lopez worked behind the plate in both weekend games, which meant finding ways to lower his own temperature or succumb to the extreme heat.

"I try to stay cool as much as I can," he said. "When I have to get ready for the game, I do my hitting, my throwing, my stretching, pretty much everything in the tunnel, where it's cool and nice.

"Once the game starts, when the inning is over, I go back down to the cool area. And I drink a lot of fluids."

Rookie pitcher John Maine, recalled from Triple-A Ottawa, gained his first major league win Saturday despite the oppressive heat. He lasted five innings before saying he was "gassed."

"I'm from Virginia so we're used to it, but playing up in Canada all year, you don't see this kind of humidity," he said. "It's been hot, but everyone else is playing in it, too, so it doesn't matter."

Manager Sam Perlozzo took the same stance, though he was smart enough to conduct his pre-game media sessions inside an air-conditioned office instead of the sweltering dugout.

"No excuses on either side," he said. "We're both on equal ground."

It just happened to be baked.

Maine's fan club grows

Add Lopez to the list of Orioles impressed by Maine's five scoreless innings Saturday.

In his second career start with the Orioles, Maine allowed two hits and walked three batters among his 89 pitches.

"It seemed like he wasn't nervous at all," Lopez said. "He put up a great performance. He was dominating the whole game. He was in the strike zone. The main key was keeping the ball in the corners low. He got a lot of ground balls."

Maine was given a ball to keep as a reminder of his first win. Not that he'll forget the achievement anytime soon.

"I'm just going to write what happened on it and put it somewhere," he said. "When I get a big house, maybe I'll put it on the mantel."

Sosa tries batting 7th

Sammy Sosa batted seventh yesterday for the first time since Sept. 17, 1993, with Rafael Palmeiro's return shoving him down another notch in the midst of a 1-for-25 slump.

Sosa went 0-for-4 and is hitless in his past four games. His average dropped to .225.

Perlozzo said he lowered Sosa to break up the left-handers in the lineup, and to get Lopez's hot bat in the fifth slot. Sosa hit between Palmeiro and Jay Gibbons, and he'll move up to sixth tonight against Oakland Athletics left-hander Barry Zito.

Tejada at DH on hold

Plans to use shortstop Miguel Tejada as the designated hitter for a game apparently have been put on hold.

"He seems to be energized right now," said Perlozzo, who didn't want to remove Tejada from the field during the last road trip because of Melvin Mora's ankle injury.

"For a while it looked like he really wanted to DH, but I think a lot of that was mental, too. When you get tired mentally, you get tired physically."

Homecoming for Byrnes

The first time Tejada returned to Oakland last year after signing with the Orioles as a free agent, he received a standing ovation before his first at-bat. Eric Byrnes, who spent parts of six seasons there, isn't expecting anything like that tonight, but he's still looking forward to the homecoming.

"I'm excited about sleeping in my own bed," said Byrnes, who grew up in California and still owns a place in Half Moon Bay, outside of Oakland. "I'm excited to see a lot of my friends. A lot of the fans became friends of mine over the years."

Byrnes, who has been living in a hotel since he was acquired from the Colorado Rockies on July 29, hit .283 with 20 homers and 73 RBIs last year with Oakland. But his playing time decreased this season with the emergence of rookie outfielder Nick Swisher. Still, Byrnes isn't bitter.

"It was a really great experience for me," he said. "They're playing great right now, and it's a big series for us."

For the past two months, no team in the majors has been playing better than the A's.

"I think this team has the potential to do what [Oakland] did," said Byrnes, who has hit safely in 12 of 15 games since joining the Orioles. "Are they any more talented than this team? I don't think so. I would not be surprised to see us get hot and get back in this."

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