Cross-court pass delights Birkins


Lefty gets O's call while watching Lakers rally

rehab stint for Matos


Kurt Birkins was relaxing in Triple-A Ottawa's clubhouse on Sunday, watching the Los Angeles Lakers' playoff game, until his television time was interrupted by manager Dave Trembley. That's when Birkins found out the Orioles wanted to purchase his contract.

His head still spinning, Birkins returned to his seat and saw Kobe Bryant hit the game-winning shot at the buzzer.

"It doesn't get any better than that," Birkins said.

The Orioles need their bullpen to get better, which prompted yesterday's moves. They also bought Julio Manon's contract from Ottawa, optioned Eddy Rodriguez to Triple-A and designated Jim Brower for assignment.

To make room on the 40-man roster, the Orioles also designated catcher Eli Whiteside for assignment.

"They let me know a little in spring training that I'd get a shot sometime this season," said Birkins, 25. "It's a little shocking that I got it as early as I did."

Birkins, a 33rd-round draft pick in 2000, mostly has been a starter. But he'll serve as a situational left-hander out of the bullpen, his role at UCLA, as well as a long man.

"We're grooming some kids," manager Sam Perlozzo said. "We just didn't expect Jim Brower to not pitch well."

Birkins was 1-3 with a 3.20 ERA in five starts for Ottawa. Manon, 32, had eight saves and a 0.75 ERA in 11 games as Ottawa's closer. He tossed 1 1/3 scoreless innings on Sunday.

The Orioles signed Manon as a minor league free agent in December after he pitched in South Korea in 2004 and briefly in Taiwan in 2005. He appeared in 23 games with the Montreal Expos in 2003, going 1-2 with a 4.13 ERA.

"This is big. It's huge for me," said Manon, who throws a fastball, splitter and slider. "Coming back [to the U.S.] and making it back to the big leagues so soon, it's a big shock."

Matos headed for injury rehab

Rather than activate Luis Matos from the disabled list yesterday, the Orioles are prepared to send him on an injury rehab assignment. Matos played nine innings in an extended spring training game in Sarasota, Fla., and the Orioles are convinced that his injured right shoulder has healed enough to allow him to face stiffer competition.

Among the other injured players, Kevin Millar's bruised right hand has improved enough that he could be available tonight. Javy Lopez said his back still hurts when he takes a hard swing and doesn't expect to return for a few more games. And Miguel Tejada remained the designated hitter last night as he copes with right knee and hamstring soreness.

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