Gibbons finds more order in restructured lineup

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Left-hander says he is not bottom-of-order hitter

Notebook

September 07, 2005|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

Jay Gibbons has spent many of his 108 starts this season in unfamiliar territory in the lineup for a hitter who drove in 100 runs two seasons ago. Seventy times this season, Gibbons has hit either seventh, eighth or ninth in the Orioles" order - all while quietly - but adamantly - maintaining that he is not a bottom-of-the-order hitter.

Ultimately, he has proved that recently, swinging the Orioles" hottest bat. Entering last night, Gibbons had hit safely in eight of nine games, going 15-for-39 (.385) during that stretch with four homers and six RBIs. Over the past 32 games, Gibbons is batting .305 with seven home runs and 16 RBIs, a stretch that has led manager Sam Perlozzo to push Gibbons into the middle of the order.

The left-hander has hit clean- up four times in the past five games and has been in the lineup every day recently, regardless of whether a left- hander or right-hander were pitching.

"I didn't say I belong in the fourth hole, but I'll take it." said Gibbons, who has raised his average to .271, is second on the team with 21 homers and is fourth among Orioles with 61 RBIs. "I like hitting in the middle of the lineup, getting up more."

Gibbons credits his hot streak to several factors: for one, he is completely healthy, a refreshing development for a player who was bothered by injuries for the entire 2004 season. The 28-year-old , fed up with his lack of power the other way, also decided recently to close up his batting stance after experimenting with an open stance for the first time in his career.

The change has produced a comfort level for Gibbons, who realizes that his late-season success couldn't come at a better time. He is eligible for arbitration after this season.

"They own me for another year." said Gibbons. "I'm hoping they"ll welcome me back next year and for years to come. That's my goal, to be here forever. Hopefully [with] me playing better and finishing strong, they"ll want me around for a while."

Around the horn

Walter Young hit the B&O warehouse on the fly with a home run in batting practice. After pitching for the first time in eight days on Monday, reliever Tim Byrdak reported no pain in his left pitching shoulder. Sam Perlozzo got positive reports after a team doctor checked the lesion on Sammy Sosa's right toe on Monday, but the Orioles manager said Sosa still "has a little pain." and he's unsure if the outfielder will be able to return by Saturday, when he is eligible to come off the disabled list.

Orioles players and wives will collect money at the gates tonight for the American Red Cross relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina.

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