Patterson gets jump on winning O's job

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Center fielder impresses with base running, bat

March 10, 2006|By JEFF ZREBIEC | JEFF ZREBIEC,SUN REPORTER

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- With his main competition for the starting center-field job away at the World Baseball Classic, Corey Patterson is getting plenty of opportunities to impress new manager Sam Perlozzo.

And after a slow start to the exhibition season, Patterson has done just that. He went 0-for-2 with a run and a stolen base in yesterday's 4-2 loss to the Minnesota Twins at Fort Lauderdale Stadium. The fleet 26-year-old, who is dueling with Luis Matos to start on Opening Day, is hitting .263 this spring in 19 at-bats..

"He's doing great," Perlozzo said. "We're going in small steps with him and he's responding. ... We've been working tremendously hard on getting his confidence back to where it should be. I know he didn't have much confidence last year."

Perlozzo has been particularly pleased with Patterson's work on the base paths. He has three steals on three attempts, including one yesterday that led to the Orioles' first run.

"I'll tell you what, he can fly," Perlozzo said. "He's shown me something. I heard he is really fast but that his base-running instincts may not be up to where we'd like them to be, but he sure hasn't shown me that."

Patterson said he has just focused on getting comfortable with his new team and finding a routine.

"My approach has always stayed the same. It's just the way I prepare myself for the game that has changed," said Patterson, who hit .215 for the Chicago Cubs last year with 13 homers and 34 RBIs. "I am just trying to do one thing, where before I'd try to work on 10 things. If you stay consistent, no matter how good or bad you are doing, it will all work out."

Conflicting reports

When the Orioles signed 26-year-old pitcher Franklyn Gracesqui as a minor league free agent in December, they thought that they were getting a left-handed reliever whose fastball was in the mid- to high-90s.

But through workouts and two exhibition appearances for Gracesqui, the Orioles have still yet to see that velocity. In fact, one scout sitting behind the plate at the Orioles-Los Angeles Dodgers game on Wednesday, clocked Gracesqui in the high 80s and said he didn't reach the 90s once.

"We've heard the same exact thing," Perlozzo said when asked about the reports that Gracesqui throws in the high 90s. "We keep looking to see where that is. I know he came in after his outing [on Wednesday] and sat next to Leo [Mazzone] and I heard Leo tell him, `Next time out, if you are holding back, don't.' We'll see what happens next time out. I'd like to see the 98 myself."

Roberts OK after BP

A day after taking live batting practice for the first time since his season-ending elbow injury last September, Orioles All-Star second baseman Brian Roberts said his left elbow felt fine and he was excited about his progress.

"It's nice to feel like you are getting closer and closer," said Roberts, who is still optimistic that he'll be ready on Opening Day. "That's kind of another hurdle that, I guess you can say, I get over. I am sure at this point, we'll just stick to [batting practice] for a few more days and we'll go from there."

Roberts took two rounds of batting practice yesterday and Orioles officials were pleased with what they saw.

"We took our time, let him get in the box and settle in," Perlozzo said. "He did well, very well. He upped his intensity a lot. We'll continue with that for a couple of days and then we're going to try and get him on a schedule where he fits in with the rest of us and gets moving."

Around the horn

Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada did not play in the Dominican Republic's victory over Italy yesterday in the World Baseball Classic, but his manager, Manny Acta, said that it had nothing to do with the condition of Tejada's knee, which he tweaked on Tuesday. Acta said that Tejada was fine, he just wanted to give Jose Reyes a chance at shortstop. ... Perlozzo said that he doesn't expect to make any roster cuts until his players start returning from the World Baseball Classic. ... Kris Benson will start for the Orioles today against the Florida Marlins, followed by Jim Johnson and John Halama.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Dan Connolly contributed to this article.

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