Struggling J. Lopez to bat 8th today


Perlozzo tries to take pressure off former catcher

Matos beats odds, will start in center



Opening Day Preview

Orioles Vs. Devil Rays


After a spring during which former Orioles catcher Javy Lopez struggled to adjust to a new position, he now faces another change: a lower spot in the batting order.

The Opening Day lineup for today, posted before yesterday's workout at Camden Yards, has Lopez batting eighth for the first time since 2004, when he did it once. And the Orioles are facing a left-hander, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays' Scott Kazmir, which usually elevates a right-handed hitter in the order.

"It doesn't matter," said Lopez, who is 1-for-7 lifetime against Kazmir. "It's something I know for a fact will change. I'm not worried about it."

Lopez scuffled for most of the spring, batting .128 with one home run, while trying to adjust to playing first base. Manager Sam Perlozzo tabled the experiment last week and made him the regular designated hitter, enabling Lopez to concentrate more on his offense.

"I came here to Baltimore [after breaking camp] and it was a quick change," Lopez said. "My timing, hitting, bat speed."

All of those things will have to come into play while he's much lower in the order.

"His numbers aren't quite as good," Perlozzo said. "We're trying to get his bat going to take a little heat off him. The last two times up [Saturday night] could have been his two best at-bats. He looks like, hopefully, that his timing will be there. Hopefully, he'll break out right when this thing starts."

Matos perseveres

Wasn't Luis Matos supposed to be headed out the door this spring, and not on his way to the Orioles' dugout?

Wasn't he supposed to be traded to another team, or at least relegated to the bench as a spare part on Opening Day?

After batting .350 with nine RBIs in 14 games this spring, Matos not only made the 25-man roster, but he'll also be hitting second today as the starting center fielder. His primary competitors, Corey Patterson and rookie Nick Markakis, will be reserves.

"I talked to Louie before we left spring training," Perlozzo said. "I explained the situation and I said that if I use him at No. 2, what I expected out of him - the ability to move somebody over, bunt if I needed him to. I didn't know this, but he said, `I love hitting there.' We'll give it a shot and see how we go."

It works in Matos' favor that the Devil Rays are starting a left-hander. It also doesn't hurt that he was one of the club's most effective hitters this spring.

Newhan earns spot

With his average climbing above .400 this spring, and a left-handed bat in reserve bringing a certain appeal to a team, David Newhan assumed correctly that he wouldn't be summoned into Perlozzo's office after Saturday's exhibition game and told that he had been cut. Nobody requested a meeting. Nobody said a word to him.

"I guess no news is good news," he said.

"I felt like I had done enough, but you never know, especially with a [minor league] option hanging over my head. But I was comfortable with what I had done."

Unless the Orioles make a late trade, Newhan will be part of a crowded outfield on a team that's going with 11 pitchers and an extra position player.

"It's going to be tough for Sam to keep everyone happy, but I'm glad to be here," Newhan said. "And when I'm called on, I'll have to be ready."

Around the horn

Markakis is expected to start Wednesday's second game. "I would think so," Perlozzo said. ... Perlozzo estimated that reliever Todd Williams, who remains at the minor league camp while rehabilitating a calf injury, will need at least two more weeks before he's ready to join the club. "We kind of thought that he had a setback a couple of days ago, and then we turned around and find out that he threw the next time he was supposed to throw and everything was better again," Perlozzo said. "We're just keeping our fingers crossed that we'll get him back as soon as we can, but we're going to have to go with what we have, rather than who is sitting around. You never can tell if you're going to get him back, or how long it's going to take."

Sun reporter Jeff Zrebiec contributed to this article.

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