Looking out for No. 2 hitter

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Perlozzo considers catcher Hernandez for role

Gibbons has strained hamstring

Orioles notebook

March 11, 2006|By JEFF ZREBIEC | JEFF ZREBIEC,SUN REPORTER

JUPITER, Fla. -- In his quest to find a No. 2 hitter, Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo said he is considering several options, including catcher Ramon Hernandez.

"I have a feeling that Ramon is a pretty good player who can do some things with his bat," Perlozzo said before the Orioles' 7-2 loss to the Florida Marlins yesterday at Roger Dean Stadium. "It just won't be conventional. It's an interesting thought. We'll see how it goes. Who knows? We might make a trade and get that spot taken care of."

The second spot in the order has long been a problem area for the Orioles, who tried 10 different hitters there last season, from Melvin Mora to Sammy Sosa to Jeff Fiorentino. The Orioles' No. 2 hitters batted a cumulative .244 with a .306 on-base percentage.

Hernandez is a career .262 hitter with a .325 on-base percentage and has just 16 at-bats from the second slot in his career. Perlozzo said that he could see him hitting anywhere from second to fifth, sixth or seventh. Hernandez wouldn't be a traditional No. 2 hitter, known as hit-and-run guys with some speed and good bat control.

Mora was used 81 times in the second slot last season, but Perlozzo said that the third slot might be a better fit for the third baseman, ahead of Miguel Tejada and Jay Gibbons and Javy Lopez, who are likely to hit fifth and sixth, respectively.

"I think the 2 hole is a big thing for us, to try and get that solidified before the end of the spring," Perlozzo said. "As we stand right now, I'd hate to see Melvin in the 2 hole have to sacrifice himself when he's a .300 hitter. It may end up being that is the case."

Everything could change, however, if leadoff man Brian Roberts is not available for Opening Day.

"The 1 hole is the biggest problem right now," Perlozzo said. "Obviously, if Brian can't go, it will be taxing on us."

Asked about his options if Roberts isn't ready, Perlozzo smiled and said, "I don't know," then mentioned Corey Patterson and Luis Matos as candidates.

Perlozzo said that if Nick Markakis makes the team, he'd likely hit him in the bottom of the lineup until he established himself in the big leagues.

Gibbons scratched

Gibbons made the trip to Jupiter but was a late scratch from the lineup because of a strained right hamstring. He is considered day-to-day but won't play here today against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Gibbons, who got treatment during the game, said he suffered the injury a couple of days ago.

"I didn't say anything about it, which is my fault," he said. "I just didn't think anything of it. I mentioned it today, they looked at it, saw my hamstring is a little swollen and they said you're not playing. ... I'm not overly upset about it. Obviously I'd like to be 100 percent, but nobody's 100 percent at all times."

Around the horn

Injured relievers John Parrish, Ryan Keefer and Orber Moreno were transferred to the Orioles' minor league camp in Sarasota to continue rehabilitating their injuries. Perlozzo didn't rule out Moreno's returning to Fort Lauderdale at some point later this spring. ... The Orioles are expecting pitchers Bruce Chen, Erik Bedard and Adam Loewen to return to the team this weekend after competing in the World Baseball Classic.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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