J. Lopez likely to sit in Atlanta

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

With no DH in NL ballpark, his role should be limited in homecoming

June 30, 2006|By DAVID SELIG AND CHILDS WALKER | DAVID SELIG AND CHILDS WALKER,SUN REPORTERS

Javy Lopez said he's excited to return to Atlanta, where he spent the first 12 seasons of his major league career. But with the Orioles not allowed to use a designated hitter in this weekend's series against the Braves, Lopez might not see much action.

Lopez caught last night, and Perlozzo said Ramon Hernandez likely would start behind the plate throughout the series against the Braves.

"I am just going to enjoy to be out there and see my kids," said Lopez, who lives in Duluth, Ga. "But whether I am going to play over there or not, that's something that I don't know."

Lopez missed the second game of Wednesday's doubleheader with a sore back and said he probably should have sat out the opener as well. He was back catching Rodrigo Lopez last night and even discussed possibly returning to play for Atlanta before the end of his career.

"I'd always like to leave with good memories," Lopez said. "Certainly, the last year with the Braves was the best year of my career. It would be good to leave the fans with that good memory of me."

Roberts gaining strength

Friends from around baseball bombarded Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts with text messages after he hit his first home run of the season Wednesday.

"It was like the first time I've ever played the game," he said. "[Texas Rangers outfielder] Kevin Mench asked me if I was on the home-run-a-year program."

Roberts had a breakout power season with 18 homers in 2005, but the catastrophic elbow injury he suffered in September kept him from strength training in the offseason. He has had no trouble keeping his average over .300 this year, but he hadn't been hitting the ball with much lift before he pulled a pitch deep into the left-field stands against the Philadelphia Phillies.

"My arm is feeling 100 times better than it did two months ago," he said. "I've gotten stronger and I've been able to lift. The guys here, [hitting coach Terry Crowley] and our strength coach, said, `Man, your swing looks a lot better now than it did in April.' Not just my swing, but just being able to drive balls. The ball has been jumping off my bat more."

Roberts said he's having the rare experience of getting stronger as the season progresses. Until recently, for example, he couldn't bend his arm back far enough to hold the weight bar so he could do squats.

Roberts believes he will return to hitting 15 to 20 homers a year if he stays healthy. Manager Sam Perlozzo agrees.

"In his defense, we should be tickled to death that he's even on the field and hitting .300," Perlozzo said. "I think that once the season is over and he has a full offseason to work on his baseball skills and just get his strength back to where he was, he'll get his share."

Hit by pitches

Phillies pitchers hit five Orioles batters during Wednesday's doubleheader and the Orioles now lead the American League in hit by pitches with 44.

Catcher Ramon Hernandez was hit once in each game, while third baseman Melvin Mora and outfielders Luis Matos and Nick Markakis were hit in the second game.

Perlozzo didn't believe any of the hit by pitches were intentional but said the Phillies, like many teams, have pitched inside to Orioles hitters.

Around the horn

Orioles reliever John Parrish most likely will miss the entire 2006 season after undergoing another surgical procedure on his left elbow. Executive vice president Jim Duquette confirmed that Parrish, trying to return from ligament-reconstruction surgery, had bone spurs and sutures removed from his left elbow that were causing discomfort. "We expect him to be out the rest of the year," Duquette said. ... Ottawa left-hander Franklyn Gracesqui cleared waivers and was outrighted to the Triple-A Lynx, leaving the Orioles with 38 players on their 40-man roster.

david.selig@baltsun.com childs.walker@baltsun.com

Sun reporters Katie Carrera and Roch Kubatko contributed to this article.

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