`Monster' year? Millar hopes not

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Trying to shed pull-ball approach from Fenway, ex-Red Sox hits 2 HRs

April 14, 2006|By JEFF ZREBIEC | JEFF ZREBIEC,SUN REPORTER

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- A side note to Daniel Cabrera's wild outing and Jonny Gomes' game-winning grand slam on Wednesday night was Kevin Millar's first two home runs as an Oriole.

Millar said yesterday that the game's end result overrode his personal accomplishment, although his second home run, a bases-empty shot off Shawn Camp in the ninth inning, was particularly gratifying because he hit it to dead center field.

With Boston last year, Millar admitted he became too pull conscious, playing home games with Fenway Park's Green Monster looming in left field. He attributed what was a down year for him, a .272 average with nine home runs and 50 RBIs, to that approach.

He said he was able to get away with it at home, where he hit eight of his home runs, but he struggled once the Red Sox went on the road. "I can hit the ball the other way," Millar said. "In Florida I did it a lot."

Millar said he has also altered his stance slightly, back to what it was when he was playing for the Marlins.

"I used to hit open," said Millar, who entered last night with a .286 average and six RBIs. "Now I narrowed back up and [went] back to basics. It's a game of adjustments."

Patterson still in plans

Center fielder Corey Patterson was not in the lineup again last night, meaning the offseason trade acquisition has started just twice in the Orioles' first 10 games. However, manager Sam Perlozzo was adamant that even with an abundance of outfielders, Patterson, 26, still figures prominently in the club's plans.

"What these guys have to realize is I am not looking for a guy to step in there and have three hits," Perlozzo said. "You just want to see a guy go in and have some good at-bats. If he lines out three times and he's 0-for-4, that's a good sign. But you can't go out and strike out three times. ... I still like him. I have high hopes for him."

Perlozzo wouldn't commit to anything, but he said Patterson could have a bigger role in the four-game set with the Los Angeles Angels, starting tonight at Camden Yards.

"I am always thinking about getting somebody going," Perlozzo said. "You just try to find a spot to put him in a place where he might succeed. There are a couple of guys with Anaheim that we think he might match up with."

Perlozzo has vowed to go with the hot hand, and that meant David Newhan got his fourth start in the past five games last night. Newhan hurt his finger in Wednesday's game, but X-rays were negative. Javy Lopez (bruised left thumb and right elbow soreness) also returned.

"I don't know that David is 100 percent throwing right now, but I know he is good enough to play and I think Javy is, too," Perlozzo said.

Catcher steps up pace

Count Melvin Mora as the latest player to laud new catcher Ramon Hernandez for speeding up several of the Orioles' starters, including the deliberate Erik Bedard.

"I think the secret to everything is Ramon makes you work fast. Bedard was taking like three hours for the game, and now he is taking one hour, 90 minutes," said Mora, laughing as Bedard stood nearby. "If you work fast, everything goes well. Hopefully, it will continue."

After his start Tuesday, Kris Benson credited much of his success to being in sync with Hernandez, whom he said kept the tempo to the pitcher's liking.

"It's pretty much get the ball back, get the sign and go," Benson said. "You don't waste your time shaking [off]."

.jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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