Fahey surprises with versatility

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Playing time of O's flexible rookie may be reduced when others healthy

Notebook

July 09, 2006|By CHILDS WALKER | CHILDS WALKER,SUN REPORTER

Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo freely admits that his bench isn't as strong as he'd like.

The club's blueprint for the season did not include Howie Clark, Luis Terrero or Ed Rogers. Luis Matos wasn't expected to play so poorly that the team would release him.

But amid all the chaos at the back of the roster, one stoop-shouldered rookie has emerged as a rock for his manager. And that rookie, Brandon Fahey, never expected it, either.

Miguel Tejada needs a day at designated hitter? Start Fahey at short. Jay Gibbons' injury leaves the team critically short of corner outfielders? Try the kid out there. Forced to grasp for fill-ins all season, the Orioles have come up with one who might actually be a keeper.

"When I came up, I thought I was going to be here for maybe a week, just until everybody got healthy," Fahey said. "And unfortunately, some other people got injured, and I'm still here."

With Gibbons, Chris Gomez and David Newhan all expected back in the next month to six weeks, Fahey may move to a purer utility role. His statistics (.333 on-base percentage and .357 slugging percentage) are not those of a corner outfielder. But he said he's not worried about how his role might change.

"I just wake up every day and come to the park and have fun," he said. "If you start thinking about stuff, what you think is probably going to be wrong anyway, so there's no use in even thinking it. You can't predict the future."

Of playing once or twice a week instead of four or five times, he said, "I think I could adjust."

Fahey was surprised how comfortable he was when he didn't play for a stretch earlier this season and then pinch hit. "I was expecting it to look harder than it was," he said. "But it looked normal, like I had been playing all the time."

Benson upbeat

Kris Benson offered no magical explanation for his recent run of poor starts.

He pitched on three days' rest last Sunday in Atlanta and paid for it by allowing four runs and 10 base runners in five innings. He was back to his normal routine before Friday's outing against the Indians and looked even worse, allowing seven runs and 10 hits in three innings.

Benson said a few early calls that went against him set a bad tone. And he hung a slider to Travis Hafner with the bases loaded. But he said he didn't notice any mechanical problems or a loss of sharpness with any particular pitch.

"You just keep on working. "Things just sometimes don't go your way for a couple of starts, and then all of a sudden, they come back. ... It's an up-and-down game. It's just a matter of staying consistent with your preparation."

Benson's ERA rose to 4.79 on Friday. He's allowed 15 earned runs in his past 13 innings. His struggles followed a superb five-start stretch in which he was 2-1 with a 2.65 ERA.

He said he's pleased overall with his first half-season as an Oriole and as an American League pitcher.

"I've had other tough games this year," Benson said. "I don't sit on stuff. I just have to realize I have a nice little break and take advantage of it, come back ready to pitch in the second half."

Injury update

Perlozzo said he spoke to Gibbons and Newhan yesterday and said both are progressing well in rehabilitating injuries.

Gibbons is probably at least two weeks from returning. But he told Perlozzo he already felt better than he did when he tried to return prematurely from a knee sprain last month. "He felt like he was turning the corner," the manager said.

Newhan recently began jogging and hitting balls off a tee but still can't jump on his broken leg. Perlozzo said he probably won't be ready before early August.

Reliever Tim Byrdak, who had bone chips removed from his elbow, will throw a simulated game in Bowie today. childs.walker@baltsun.com

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