Halama among final cuts

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Demotion surprises veteran after 2.25 spring ERA

Chavez stays as team's third catcher

Notebook

April 02, 2006|By CHILDS WALKER | CHILDS WALKER,SUN REPORTER

The Orioles cut their roster to a final 25 players last night.

The last seven cuts were outfielder Brandon Marsters, catcher Eli Whiteside, utility infielder Ed Rogers and relievers John Halama, Cory Morris, Eddy Rodriguez and Tyler Yates.

None was shocking, though Halama was thought to be a strong candidate for long relief. He'll start the season at Triple-A Ottawa.

"I told John to go down there and be ready," manager Sam Perlozzo said. "Because it might be pretty quick that we need him to come back up here."

Halama, a seven-year veteran who posted a 2.25 ERA this spring, was irritable after hearing the news.

"I thought I pitched very well," he said. "Extremely well."

The club ultimately decided to carry a third catcher, waiver pickup Raul Chavez, instead of keeping seven relievers. When the Orioles released catcher Geronimo Gil last week, it appeared they would be content to carry two catchers, starter Ramon Hernandez and Javy Lopez.

But with Lopez struggling at first base and likely to open the season at designated hitter, the club wanted a third catcher. That's where Chavez, who served as a backup catcher for the Houston Astros last year, entered the picture.

"We felt he was an upgrade for us as a catch-and-throw catcher," said Orioles vice president Jim Duquette. "Whether he'll be a long-term answer or not, I can't predict."

The club also will carry seven players capable of playing the outfield, and Perlozzo will have to be deft to find enough at-bats for Nick Markakis, Corey Patterson and Luis Matos.

The team filled its final bullpen slot with hard-throwing right-hander Sendy Rleal, who was dominant for most of the spring. The relief corps has looked shaky at times this spring, but Perlozzo said he's reasonably content.

"If they perform the way they have in their big league careers, we'll be all right," he said.

Opening Day lineup

Perlozzo said that with left-hander Scott Kazmir starting for Tampa Bay tomorrow, he would start Jeff Conine in left field, Matos in center, Jay Gibbons in right, Kevin Millar at first, Brian Roberts at second, Melvin Mora at third, Miguel Tejada at shortstop, Hernandez at catcher and Lopez at designated hitter.

He said he hadn't decided on a batting order.

Tejada coming around

Tejada continued a late-spring resurgence with a two-run homer in the first inning and an RBI single in the third yesterday.

Tejada had slumped terribly after returning from the World Baseball Classic. He hit few balls hard and looked sluggish in the field.

But he hit two balls sharply Friday night and made excellent plays moving to his right and left. He followed with his first home run, to right yesterday off Washington's Pedro Astacio.

Perlozzo said he's relieved to see his star rounding into form.

"He's stepping up when we need him to step up, so that made everyone feel good," the manager said.

Cabrera struggles

Starter Daniel Cabrera continued his up-and-down spring yesterday against Washington. He struck out eight in four innings but walked four and allowed three runs. He also labored to throw strikes in his previous spring outing.

Those mixed performances followed his dominant outing against Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic, one that had observers hailing him as a dark-horse Cy Young candidate.

"Daniel for me is a great talent in progress," Perlozzo said.

"I think I'll be fine," Cabrera said. "It's a good spring."

The first inning was a microcosm of the traits that make Cabrera tantalizing and frustrating. He struck out the side, making several batters look helpless. But he also allowed a single and a four-pitch walk.

The Nationals hit him hard in the fourth, with Daryle Ward slamming a long home run and Jose Vidro slapping a two-run double down the line.

D.C. rivalry?

Perlozzo said the Nationals and Orioles, who will play during the regular season for the first time this year, should be rivals.

"You've got two cities 20-30 minutes apart, they should be rivals," he said. "That doesn't have to be a bad thing. It's a good thing."

childs.walker@baltsun.com

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