Roch around the clock

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April 02, 2006|By ROCH KUBATKO

Unless there's a drastic change, Jeff Conine will be the Orioles' left fielder for the opener, with Luis Matos starting in center and Jay Gibbons in right against Tampa Bay left-hander Scott Kazmir. Kevin Millar will be the first baseman.

I asked manager Sam Perlozzo if Melvin Mora would play third, bringing a smile and a pause.

Before he could answer, another reporter asked, "Next year?"

"That's not fair," Perlozzo said. "I've got a number you can call."

Nick Markakis makes the team, but not tomorrow's lineup against a left-hander. "He might not come out on Opening Day," Perlozzo said, "but he'll get plenty of at-bats.

"He played extremely well," Perlozzo added. "He forced our hand."

Perlozzo said Markakis will play all the outfield positions, but mostly center field.

Earlier yesterday, at least one person in the organization said Markakis was going down. But that changed as the day progressed.

The Orioles will go with an 11-man staff, contrasting Perlozzo's predictions all spring. I must have asked him at least twice about the possibility of going with fewer than 12, and he dismissed it every time.

"I'm not sure how comfortable we are with it," he said. "We'll see how it goes."

If Brian Roberts wasn't ready on Opening Day, Ed Rogers would have made the team. Instead, he joined John Halama, Eddy Rodriguez, Brandon Marsters, Cory Morris, Eli Whiteside and Tyler Yates as the final cuts.

roch.kubatko@baltsun.com

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