R. Lopez eager to get started


Feeling `really good,' he'll take the mound in exhibition opener today


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Orioles starter Rodrigo Lopez expects to throw at least two innings in today's exhibition opener against the Florida Marlins.

The right-hander said he has felt sharp during early throwing sessions. "Yeah, I feel really good," he said.

After his start today, Lopez will fly out to join Team Mexico for the World Baseball Classic.

"I think it's going to be just like a spring outing," he said of his starts in the Classic. "But I think the intensity will be different. ... I just like to compete, and I don't like to lose."

He added that his early work with new pitching coach Leo Mazzone has been fruitful.

"He's an interesting guy, pretty smart," Lopez said. "He hasn't really asked me to change anything specific. We just talk about trying to find targets."

Many expect Lopez - 15-12 with a 4.90 ERA last season - to start on Opening Day for the third time in his Orioles career. But he's not thinking about that yet.

"For now, I think I'll concentrate on finding my rhythm, finding my pitches and finding my comfort on the mound," he said.

Triple threat

He dresses in one of the far corners of the Orioles' locker room, wears one of those high and obscure numbers (66) that are typically assigned to spring training invitees and is considered an extreme long shot to make the major league roster.

Infielder Leo Daigle made history last season, becoming the first Triple Crown winner in the Carolina League in 54 years. But the 26-year-old knows that his landmark season -he batted .341 with 29 home runs and 112 RBIs for the Chicago White Sox's Single-A team - essentially means nothing this spring.

He's just another veteran minor leaguer, experiencing his first major league training camp and trying to parlay it into a bigger opportunity.

"It's last year," he said. "It's something that I am very proud of, but this is a new year, a new team, a new organization and a new opportunity. I am looking forward to taking advantage of everything and having a great experience."

Daigle said that his 2005 success finally sunk in about midway through the offseason, not long after he signed with the Orioles as a minor league free agent. He was attracted to the Orioles because he saw that their organization was thin at first base, his preferred position.

"You really want to maintain what you did last year," Daigle said. "I don't know if the numbers will come, but I will remember what I did so hopefully I will have some kind of success. If I don't start [with the big league club], maybe they'll have a spot where they need a right-handed guy with some power, and they can give me an opportunity."

Daigle homered during an intrasquad scrimmage yesterday.

Matos not worried

Orioles outfielder Luis Matos would seem to have the most to lose in leaving Fort Lauderdale after today's game to join Puerto Rico for the World Baseball Classic.

Matos is competing with Corey Patterson to start in center field, and his hold on a roster spot is tenuous. But despite that, Matos said he isn't worried that his absence will give Patterson an advantage. In fact, he said it won't have any effect.

"I went [into the Classic] right away, didn't even think twice," he said. "It's the one time of your life that you get a chance to do it. That's why I didn't have any hesitation."

Around the horn

Second baseman Brian Roberts may be close to taking live batting practice, said trainer Richie Bancells. Bancells said Roberts, recovering from elbow surgery, has looked dramatically better during recent soft-toss sessions. ... Manager Sam Perlozzo has been sick with a chest cold and stayed inside during workouts yesterday. He then went home early to rest. ... Third baseman Melvin Mora was excused from practice for personal reasons. He is expected back today. ... Outfield prospect Nick Markakis ripped a Rick Dempsey pitch clear over the right-field stands during yesterday's informal scrimmage. ... Shortstop Miguel Tejada and pitcher Kris Benson participated in a bubble gum-blowing contest after practice to help raise money for child cancer research.



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