J. Lopez aims to start today


Sidelined with stiff neck, catcher figures to again pair with R. Lopez


CHICAGO -- Despite not starting for the fourth straight game with a stiff neck, Javy Lopez said he is hoping to be on the lineup card and behind the plate today to resume his pairing with pitcher Rodrigo Lopez.

"That's what I am shooting for," Javy Lopez said before last night's game against the Chicago White Sox. "I am feeling better. I am not 100 percent, but tomorrow I should be fine."

Javy Lopez was unexpectedly inserted in the eighth inning last night after Ramon Hernandez left with a sore right knee.

Lopez has been Rodrigo Lopez's personal catcher for the right-hander's past seven outings. Lopez credits the catcher for helping him out of his career-high seven-game losing streak. Rodrigo Lopez is 4-2 since Lopez became his catcher.

Limited by having Hernandez as the only other catcher on the roster, the club had some discussions the past couple of days about placing Javy Lopez on the disabled list if he wasn't feeling better. Lopez hurt his neck late last week sleeping on it wrong and then aggravated the injury while taking batting practice.

More injury news

Chris Gomez, out since mid-May with a broken bone in his left hand, made a rehabilitation appearance with short-season Single-A Aberdeen last night, going 1-for-3 with an RBI and playing five innings at third base against Staten Island.

Gomez, who will report to Double-A Bowie today, will be eligible to come off the disabled list the first game after the All-Star break, and manager Sam Perlozzo said he should be ready to go.

Meanwhile, Perlozzo said top pitching prospect Hayden Penn (appendicitis) will likely make a rehab start around Sunday for Bowie. Reliever Tim Byrdak (bone chips in left elbow) will start a rehab assignment around July 12, also for Bowie.

Markakis staying put

Despite Nick Markakis' hitting safely in 14 of his past 18 games with an at-bat, posting a .413 average during that span, Perlozzo said he has no plans to move the rookie up in the batting order. Markakis has been hitting either eighth or ninth, and Perlozzo doesn't want to mess with his approach while he is doing so well.

In the spring, Perlozzo discussed using Markakis in the No. 2 hole, and he did insert him there five times earlier this season. Markakis has made more starts (38) in the No. 9 spot than any other place in the lineup. Perlozzo said that if he keeps producing, he'll consider moving him up.

Rleal's spot in jeopardy?

With right-handed relievers Eddy Rodriguez (2-0, 1.57) and Winston Abreu (5-4, 3.18) both pitching well for Triple-A Ottawa, Perlozzo acknowledged that the next couple of outings are important for struggling Orioles reliever Sendy Rleal.

Rleal gave up four runs, including a three-run homer to Chipper Jones, in the Orioles' 10-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Sunday, and he has given up runs in three of his past four appearances. Perlozzo said Rleal has gotten into trouble because he doesn't have a breaking ball he can rely on.

"He needs a breaking ball for right-handed hitters," said Perlozzo, who also said pitching coach Leo Mazzone has been trying to teach the pitch to the 26-year-old. "When his changeup is not working all the time, they seem to hit his fastball. It's imperative for him to get ahead of hitters for him to be effective with his changeup. If he is not ahead, he really needs a breaking ball to keep them off his fastball. He has a lot of trouble spinning the breaking ball for some reason."

Perlozzo has used Rleal, whose best pitch is his changeup, against left-handed hitters, who are hitting .242 against him, but he has gotten fewer opportunities with the emergence of left-hander Kurt Birkins. Right-handers are hitting .290 against Rleal with six home runs.


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