Roch around the clock

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April 03, 2006|By ROCH KUBATKO

Who would have imagined a few months ago, or sooner, that an Orioles lineup constructed to face a left-handed pitcher would include Javy Lopez batting eighth? Once embedded in a deep slump that coincided with his move to first base, Lopez sits above only catcher Ramon Hernandez in today's lineup against Tampa Bay starter Scott Kazmir. He can't remember ever occupying the eighth slot, but Lopez has accumulated 37 at-bats there in the past three years - none in 2005 and one in 2004. Hard to believe he had 36 in 2003, the year he slugged 43 home runs. Lopez totaled 75 at-bats as the No. 8 hitter in 2002.

"It doesn't matter," he said before yesterday's workout. "It's something I know for a fact will change. I'm not worried about it. I just need to stay healthy and get my timing back."

Lopez was assigned designated hitter duties so he could better concentrate on his hitting, which suffered while he learned a new position. He said the shift to Camden Yards has improved his timing and bat speed.

It's interesting how the decision on Nick Markakis went down to the wire. He was believed to be among the cuts earlier Saturday, but the debate continued among team officials, and enough people were swayed that Markakis made the 25-man roster. He earned it.

roch.kubatko@baltsun.com

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