Ex-O's outfielder Bigbie feels at home in St. Louis

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

He misses Baltimore but appreciates chemistry with Cardinals

Orioles Notebook

March 12, 2006|By JEFF ZREBIEC | JEFF ZREBIEC,SUN REPORTER

JUPITER, Fla. -- When Larry Bigbie left manager Lee Mazzilli's office July 29 after learning that the Orioles had traded him to the Colorado Rockies for Eric Byrnes, the outfielder was in tears.

The reality that his days with the Orioles were numbered had hit him long before the trade. But his emotions still boiled over, when a saddened Mazzilli officially broke the ties with the only organization Bigbie had ever known.

"I wasn't upset for the fact that I was traded out of Baltimore," said Bigbie, now an outfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals, who beat the Orioles, 5-0, yesterday at Roger Dean Stadium. Hitting second and playing left field, Bigbie was 0-for-4 and is now batting .222.

"Obviously, I loved playing there. I give all my respect to the organization for giving me a chance to play in the big leagues. But I thought the biggest thing was the relationship I had with the team, with the players and with Mazzilli. A lot of guys felt negative about him. We had kind of built that good relationship. He always referred to me as a son-like figure. When you see a guy like that and his [son] came in and started to get emotional, too, right away that is going to make it uneasy on me."

The Rockies acquired Bigbie with the intent of moving him to Boston, but the Red Sox backed out of the trade. Bigbie acknowledged that he felt unwanted in Colorado where he hit .212 in 23 games.

In December, the Rockies traded him to the Cardinals for reliever Ray King. Bigbie is now battling So Taguchi for the Cardinals' left-field spot.

"There seems to be already good chemistry built here," Bigbie said. "I think these guys have been playing with each other for a long time, so that chemistry is already there. In Baltimore we had so much mixing and matching trying to find that chemistry. And obviously with Sammy [Perlozzo] there, it's going to make it a lot easier.

"I do [miss Baltimore]. The city is great. Especially now that Sammy took over there. I'm sure the guys love him. He'd be a great guy to play for."

Bigbie, who hit .248 with the Orioles with five homers and 21 RBIs in 67 games last year, said he felt the pressure of trying to live up to the expectations in Baltimore as a first-round draft pick in 1999 and a fan favorite.

He also acknowledged that it was tough to block out the constant trade rumors he faced last year. Bigbie was one of the Orioles who was expected to be shipped to the Florida Marlins in the eventually squashed A.J. Burnett deal, and his season started to tailspin right around when the rumors were at their loudest.

"I was going out there trying to hit 25 to 30 home runs and be that guy, especially playing in that division where every left fielder is hitting 25 to 30 home runs," Bigbie said. "I felt like over there, guys in my situation - in order for us to win - had to have career years. It's not the case over here. I don't have to have a great year for this team to win."

Rotation sorting out

Perlozzo and pitching coach Leo Mazzone drove up together to Jupiter yesterday and the prevailing topic was setting the Orioles' rotation heading into the regular season.

Although Erik Bedard returned to the team yesterday after pitching for Canada in the World Baseball Classic and Bruce Chen was expected to arrive in Fort Lauderdale later yesterday, Daniel Cabrera and Rodrigo Lopez are still away. That has made it difficult for the Orioles to figure out a working schedule for their pitchers.

"I got a pretty good idea how I'd like it to go, but I don't know that it is going to happen that way," said Perlozzo, who hasn't announced his Opening Day starter, although Lopez is the likely choice. "It depends on how it shakes out at the end. If we get two guys back at once, we're going to have to probably do some shuffling."

Gibbons, Williams on mend

Perlozzo and Orioles head trainer Richie Bancells said the club will be extremely cautious with outfielder Jay Gibbons, who has a strained right hamstring and has been getting treatment the past two days.

"It's nothing serious, but we're in a situation where we don't want to rush it," Perlozzo said. "We're going to keep him out as long as it takes to make sure we don't get any extended problems."

Around the horn

Orioles reliever Todd Williams threw off the mound yesterday for the first time since experiencing shoulder soreness the second day of workouts, impressing Mazzone. Barring any setbacks, Williams will likely pitch in an exhibition game in the middle of this week. ... LaTroy Hawkins has been excused to leave the team today to travel to Minnesota to attend the memorial service of former teammate Kirby Puckett.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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