Hawkins is still Twin Cities kin

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Longtime Twin has big following years later

Fahey bats second

June 11, 2006|By DAN CONNOLLY | DAN CONNOLLY,SUN REPORTER

Minneapolis -- It has been more than two years since Orioles reliever LaTroy Hawkins left Minnesota as a free agent, but the personalized license plates, the ones with "LHFC," are still on some cars in the Twin Cities.

The LaTroy Hawkins Fan Club.

Hawkins, who has one of the personalized plates with his old No. 32 on it, said there are about 800 members in the group. He said it started one day about six years ago when he was the only Twin to sign autographs after a game.

It grew from there, and Friday, when Hawkins pitched again in the place where he spent the first nine seasons of his career, about 60 LHFC members were in attendance.

"People were saying, `Hey, LaTroy, good to see you. Good to have you back in the dome,'" Hawkins said.

It wasn't difficult to pitch against the Twins since most of his old teammates are no longer with the club, Hawkins said. But he added it was slightly strange to face one of his best friends, center fielder Torii Hunter.

"It was all right," Hawkins said. "I didn't look at him, I didn't look at him until I ran off the field."

Hawkins, a pending free agent, said he didn't think he'd return to the Twins, but he didn't rule it out.

He also didn't rule out this being his final year in baseball. Hawkins, 33, said it's becoming more difficult to be away from his 13-year-old son and, especially, his 4-year-old daughter.

"I'm missing soccer games and karate and her presentation breaking wood with her hand and all that stuff," said Hawkins, whose family lives in Dallas. "It kind of wears on you."

A new No. 2

Rookie infielder-outfielder Brandon Fahey batted second last night, becoming the seventh Oriole to hit in that slot this year. Third baseman Melvin Mora, who has hit second in 30 of the Orioles' 63 games, moved down to the third slot, where he has hit 22 times.

Manager Sam Perlozzo said he wanted to try the speedy Fahey in what has been a trouble spot for the club since David Newhan was hurt in mid-April.

"We thought we'd change it up a little bit," Perlozzo said. "Maybe he can get up there and get us a little more speed at the top, maybe use him to bunt or hit and run or something like that."

Fahey had sacrifice bunts in two of his first three at-bats last night.

Gibbons waits

Right fielder Jay Gibbons, on the disabled list with left hip and right knee injuries, won't be activated today when he is eligible to come off the DL. Part of the reason is because the Orioles face Minnesota left-hander Francisco Liriano today, so Gibbons wouldn't have started anyway.

"He's still not 100 percent and they have got Liriano starting against us so it wouldn't be a great day to bring him right out there," Perlozzo said. "But we are looking heavily into Monday."

Chen on way out?

With Gibbons eligible to return and the Orioles wanting four available reserve bats instead of three, the team will soon cut down to 12 pitchers. And with the young relievers throwing well, one option is to cut veteran left-hander Bruce Chen, who is out of options.

Chen, who had 13 wins last year, is 0-6 with a 7.76 ERA and has been demoted to the bullpen. On Friday night, he allowed his 18th homer in 51 innings.

"Bruce to me is still a serviceable pitcher. He has still gotten people out," Perlozzo said. "Finding the right spot for him at present is tough, but plain giving up on him doesn't seem to be the right answer, either."

Around the horn

Mora, who left Friday's game with a strained right shoulder, threw before the game and pronounced himself fine to play. ... Perlozzo said he would consider getting catcher-DH Javy Lopez some time at first base during a lopsided game, but said it is not a priority. ... The Orioles have scored four runs or more in an inning 22 times this season, second most in the majors behind the New York Yankees.

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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