J. Lopez back in full swing

DH hits three-run homer in return from DL, ending 0-for-16 slide

May 14, 2006|By ROCH KUBATKO | ROCH KUBATKO,SUN REPORTER

Rather than savor his first at-bat in more than two weeks, Orioles designated hitter Javy Lopez swung at the first pitch he saw yesterday and flied to right field. He welcomed the chance to get back into the batter's box. He wasn't going to linger.

It wasn't until the eighth inning that Lopez got the most out of his return.

Lopez hit a three-run homer off Kansas City reliever Chris Booker to break an 0-for-16 slide in the Orioles' 11-1 victory over the Royals at Camden Yards. He also walked in the fourth inning and bounced out in the sixth.

"It's always good to see my name in the lineup," Lopez said. "[The layoff] was getting too long for me, and the way I started the season, I was looking forward to the day I could start again so I could change things around."

To make room for Lopez on the 25-man roster, the Orioles designated outfielder Luis Terrero for assignment. Terrero was 0-for-14 after his contract was purchased from Triple-A Ottawa.

Lopez went on the disabled list retroactive to April 28 with a strained back. The roster move wasn't made until May 5.

"I've been feeling healthy for quite a while," he said. "During this period of time, I was working on my whole body and a lot of cardio, which keeps my weight low. That, combined with the rest, I'm feeling more than 100 percent."

Lopez said he could catch if needed, and it would be quite a change from his regular routine. He has made only two starts behind the plate this season, and he caught once in spring training.

"Since last year, I've only caught three games and maybe two bullpens," he said. "It's not that I've forgotten how to do it. You put me in the game right now and I'd be able to catch perfect - no problem. My knees are totally new again.

"If I continue doing the same role throughout the whole year, I can tell you I'll be a totally new guy next year. If I end up with somebody else as a catcher, I'll be totally rejuvenated."

Millar takes a seat

Kevin Millar has been making his share of outs this season, but he won't make excuses.

With Lopez serving as designated hitter, Millar sat out yesterday's game. He had company: an 11-for-62 slump that has lowered his batting average to .211. It cast a pretty wide shadow.

"The bottom line is I haven't hit," he said. "But you have to look at the big picture. It's only [90] at-bats. You're a 4-for-4 away from hitting .300. You can pull up a lot of guys who are hitting .210 right now, but by the end of the year, they'll be hitting .300. You've got to keep it in perspective."

Millar said he's seeing the ball well, and he had some quality at-bats in Friday night's game, lining to center and flying to deep left.

"It's not like I'm up there grinding," he said. "I could get a broken-bat single and hit .480 the rest of the month. You just keep rolling, keep working.

"It's very early, so early. There's a lot of baseball left, a lot of season.

"Now, if this was August ... "

Around the horn

Pitchers took batting practice yesterday in preparation for next weekend's interleague series against the Washington Nationals. ... Scott Stapp, former lead singer of the rock group Creed, attended yesterday's game. Stapp's physician is one of the Orioles' team doctors. ... The first 20,000 women 18 and older who attend today's game will receive a pink Orioles hat. ... The Orioles will be collecting used cell phones at the gates today to benefit domestic violence prevention programs. roch.kubatko@baltsun.com

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