J. Lopez passes first test at first

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

His catcher's instincts help on ground balls

throw home impresses Perlozzo

Orioles notebook

March 03, 2006|By JEFF ZREBIEC | JEFF ZREBIEC,SUN REPORTER

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- On Day One of the Javy Lopez experiment at first base, the displaced catcher was flawless.

Lopez turned in three good plays in the Orioles' 6-4 loss to the Florida Marlins in their exhibition opener at Fort Lauderdale Stadium, making two good pickups of ground balls in the third inning and throwing a runner out at home in the fourth.

"I was still a little intimidated and nervous, but once I made the first play, I kind of calmed down a little bit," said Lopez, who has looked shaky at the position at times throughout training. "You have to be focused and pay attention on every single play. But, it's fun and I really enjoyed today."

In the third inning, Lopez grabbed Mike Jacobs' hard grounder and tossed to pitcher Erik Bedard at first. The next batter, Miguel Cabrera, hit a hard shot to Lopez, who handled it and tagged the bag himself. On both plays, Lopez got low, as if he was about to block a ball from behind the plate, to keep the ball in front of him.

"As a catcher, I think that's more that the instinct I have, once I saw that ground ball," said Lopez, who left after the game to join his Puerto Rican teammates for the World Baseball Classic.

"I have to make sure that ground ball doesn't go by me. The first reaction was blocking it. It worked out well. I wish I can do that all the time because even though it's not the right way to catch ground balls, for me it's the [most secure] way."

Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo wasn't necessarily concerned with Lopez's form, only that he got the out. Perlozzo was most impressed by the play Lopez made in the fourth, when he threw out Matt Cepicky trying to score.

Second baseman Chris Gomez fielded Hanley Ramirez's grounder, but his throw to first was late. Lopez turned and fired home to catcher Ramon Hernandez to easily get Cepicky.

"That's one of the things I was worried about," Perlozzo said. "Situations happen and you have to react to them and he did very well on that."

Mora, Cabrera OK

A meeting arranged by a mutual friend behind the batting cage before yesterday's exhibition season opener buried any potential rift between Venezuelan stars Melvin Mora and Miguel Cabrera.

Mora, the Orioles' third baseman, pulled out of the World Baseball Classic earlier this week because he was angry that team officials wanted him to move to the outfield in the tournament, rather than Cabrera, the Marlins' third baseman who played outfield for much of last season.

Mora said he would have deferred to Venezuelan veteran Edgardo Alfonzo, but had a problem with doing so for Cabrera, 22.

Mora made sure to tell Cabrera yesterday that it was nothing personal and Cabrera's response was, "It's OK. There's no controversy."

Cabrera refused to talk to reporters about the incident and became testy when asked about it.

"I told him that it was nothing against him," said Mora, who shook hands and posed for pictures with Cabrera with their arms around each other. "We're fine. I wanted to talk to him because this could only have looked bad for Venezuela. I had nothing against him. It's the coaches' fault for not calling me. He's just a player."

Around the horn

Bruce Chen will pitch today, followed by Ryan Jensen, Brian Finch, Chris Britton and Sendy Rleal. ... Towson University president Robert Caret threw out the ceremonial first pitch before yesterday's game. ... The Orioles held a pre-game ceremony to thank the agencies in Fort Lauderdale and Broward County that helped restore Fort Lauderdale Stadium in the wake of Hurricane Wilma.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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