Roberts ends power outage

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Infielder hits first homer of season in opening game of doubleheader

June 29, 2006|By DAVID SELIG | DAVID SELIG,SUN REPORTER

Most Orioles fans arriving at Camden Yards yesterday afternoon might have been aware that Brian Roberts hadn't hit a home run this season. But the Orioles second baseman said that wasn't on his mind.

Roberts did, however, know the disparity between his batting averages from each side of the plate.

He also knew that part of the reason he came into yesterday's doubleheader hitting just .203 from the right side - compared to .353 from the left - was because he had more than twice the at-bats against right-handed pitching.

"I felt pretty good early in the season when I was getting consistent at-bats [from the right side]," Roberts said before the first game. "I think for a while most of my [right-handed] at-bats were in the seventh and eighth innings against relievers in tough situations. When I get a starting pitcher and I get three or four at-bats, I feel pretty good."

In his third at-bat against Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels, Roberts hit an 0-2 pitch into the left-field seats for his first home run since Aug. 30.

The two-run homer in the fourth came in Roberts' 222nd at-bat and, as his teammates playfully reminded him, it pulled him into a tie with starting pitcher Kris Benson on the Orioles' home run list.

Roberts hit 18 home runs before a season-ending elbow injury last September.

"I knew that my power might drop just because of strength-wise not being in the same physical condition I was last year," Roberts said. "It's not a big deal to me right now."

Injury update

Manager Sam Perlozzo said pitchers Hayden Penn, Tim Byrdak and Ryan Keefer are expected to join Single-A Aberdeen "pretty soon," with Penn possibly ready for a rehabilitation start around July 9.

After his rehab start, the Orioles likely will put Penn at Triple-A Ottawa initially, the manager added.

"I think the people in the minor leagues felt that if there was ever a time when he was ready, that it was this last time," Perlozzo said. "He was really on top of his game. ... I don't think you would want to bring him back up if he's not showing you he's back in kind of a groove."

Penn had surgery for appendicitis the night before he was supposed to make his first start for the Orioles this season. He was 2-2 with a 1.48 ERA with Ottawa, but has been on the disabled list since May 23.

Lineup shuffle

Miguel Tejada was the designated hitter for last night's game, the sixth time he has filled that role this season. Tejada jammed his right leg sliding into second base on a double in the first game, but remained in the game at shortstop.

Going into the doubleheader, Perlozzo talked about possibly using catcher Ramon Hernandez as the designated hitter or first baseman in the nightcap, but he kept Hernandez behind the plate and sat Javy Lopez.

"I'll play wherever," Hernandez said between games. "If [Perlozzo] told me to be the batboy, I'd be the batboy."

Getting closer

The Orioles have narrowed the gap in contract negotiations with first-round pick Bill Rowell and hope to announce a deal soon.

Rowell, an infielder, was the ninth overall selection in the draft and is expected to sign for a bonus close to $2 million. He is believed to have asked for $2.3 million initially and the Orioles are believed to have offered $2 million.

"We're very close," Orioles scouting director Joe Jordan said. "We're as close as we've been since we drafted him."

Rowell is expected to start his career at short-season Single-A Bluefield.

Around the horn

Bench coach Gary Varsho managed the Phillies in the day game, as Charlie Manuel served his one-game suspension for arguing with umpire Bill Miller on June 17. ... Jeff Conine hit his third triple of the month in the second inning of the first game. He only had three triples in the previous two years combined. ... Ottawa closer Julio Manon was named to the International League All-Star team yesterday. The 33-year-old who was out of professional baseball the past two seasons leads the league in saves (16) and has a 2.87 ERA.

david.selig@baltsun.com

Staff writer Childs Walker contributed to this article.

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