Ortiz is hoping 3rd time charm


His status unclear after two starts, he may face last-ditch pitch today



Russ Ortiz will make his third start for the Orioles tonight, and if it's not better than the first two, his future in the rotation may be uncertain.

When asked if Ortiz must pitch well to earn another start, manager Sam Perlozzo did not say yes or no. He noted that the rotation might fall so that Ortiz's spot would be bumped back anyway.

Questions about Ortiz's future have arisen because he has a 7.88 ERA and has allowed 72 base runners in 32 innings this season. He's 0-1 with an 8.68 ERA for the Orioles.

Perlozzo would love Ortiz to wipe away any doubts with a strong outing.

"I thought his last time out, his velocity was just a hair better," he said. "I think he just needs to get a little crisper with all his stuff and pitch ahead in the count."

Ortiz, who last pitched July 6, agreed he's not having problems with any particular pitch.

"At this point, I feel like I can throw the ball where I need to, but maybe sometimes, I don't let it loose just because I'm trying to hit a certain spot," he said.

The Arizona Diamondbacks released Ortiz two months into the second year of a four-year, $33 million deal. The Orioles picked him up on a minimum-salary contract, figuring they had nothing to lose.

But the one-time ace has not regained his form, despite being reunited with pitching coach Leo Mazzone.

"I think he's starting to be a lot more comfortable here," Perlozzo said. "But it's got to transfer into the ballgames. We really want him to do well. He's a good guy. He's a veteran guy. It would be a big help for us if we could get that guy going."

R. Lopez to the Mets?

The New York Mets have expressed interest in trading for Orioles starter Rodrigo Lopez, but he isn't the top pitcher on their wish list, according to industry sources.

The Mets are pursuing several starters - including Livan Hernandez of the Washington Nationals - ahead of Lopez, the sources said.

Pitcher Aaron Heilman and outfielder Xavier Nady are among those who have come up during talks between the Mets and Orioles. But no deal appears imminent.

Multiple teams have contacted the Orioles about Lopez, who pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings Sunday.

Newhan, Gibbons recovering

David Newhan was examined yesterday in Baltimore and told that his mobility and strength were excellent - signs that his rehabilitation from a fractured right fibula and torn ankle ligament is progressing.

Newhan will be examined again Aug. 4, and he hopes to discuss a minor league rehab assignment at that point. For now, he'll move from jogging to sprinting and from making small jumps to bigger ones.

Perlozzo said Jay Gibbons will probably spend another five to seven days in Los Angeles rehabilitating his injured knee and might then rejoin the Orioles for workouts before a rehab assignment.

Around the horn

In his first rehab outing for Single-A Aberdeen, reliever Tim Byrdak (elbow) allowed one run and two hits and struck out three in an inning of work. ... The Orioles will not sign their 10th-round pick, center fielder Emeel Salem, who is intent on returning to the University of Alabama for his senior year. ... Actor Tom Hanks, director Ron Howard and comedian Dennis Miller attended last night's game. Hanks is touring major league ballparks to celebrate his 50th birthday. ... Designated hitter Javy Lopez sat out yesterday with a sore lower back. childs.walker@baltsun.com

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