Being skipped stumps Lopez

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Starter tries to put positive spin on again missing turn in rotation

August 10, 2006|By JEFF ZREBIEC | JEFF ZREBIEC,SUN REPORTER

TORONTO -- Unlike the last time his spot in the rotation was skipped, Rodrigo Lopez measured his words carefully yesterday, not wanting to express his frustration. But it was impossible for the pitcher to completely hide his disappointment after learning that he'd have to wait about a week to start again.

"I don't really know what to think about it because you can see it in different ways," Lopez said. "You can see it that they don't really want me to pitch or you can see it that they want to get the rotation [set up]. But if I was part of the rotation, then I am going to pitch every five days. It's hard for me to understand, but I don't want to say something. I don't want to make my feelings come out."

Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo and pitching coach Leo Mazzone informed Lopez on Tuesday that he would be used in the bullpen and not start again until Wednesday or Thursday of next week. Perlozzo said that the club had to skip somebody because of all the days off the Orioles have had recently and because of the need to mesh Daniel Cabrera and Kris Benson back into the rotation.

Lopez, who is 8-12 with a 6.12 ERA and gave up four home runs to the New York Yankees in his last start, was the choice because "that's how it fell," Perlozzo said, not indicating that the pitcher's performance factored into it.

When Lopez's turn was pushed back a couple of days in mid-June, Lopez questioned the decision and told reporters that he was "not OK with it." His reaction was much more muted yesterday.

"I think basically for the future of the team, they want to see [Adam] Loewen and Cabrera pitch more often, so I don't want to take it the wrong way," Lopez said. "I am pretty upset because I think I was pitching better."

O's out West

The preliminary schedule for the 2007 season has the American League East playing the National League West in interleague games, with the Orioles tentatively scheduled to make their first-ever trip to San Diego to face the Padres.

Along with a home-and-home series against the Washington Nationals, the Orioles will host the San Francisco Giants and Colorado Rockies and go to Arizona to play the Diamondbacks. The schedule has yet to be approved by Major League Baseball.

Change needed

In the Orioles' 8-4 win over the Blue Jays on Tuesday, Cabrera showed that he has the ability to shut down an opponent with just two pitches - a fastball and a curveball. But Orioles officials are trying to impress on the 25-year-old that he needs to use his changeup more to become a dominant pitcher.

"He has a good changeup," Mazzone said. "He just has to trust it. He can take care of a team with two pitches, but there are going to be some situations where he is going to need that changeup. He's going to have to have that pitch against the real tough left-handers as we go along."

Said Perlozzo: "Sooner or later, he's going to have to pick up another pitch if he wants to be really good. I am sure we're going to continue to work on that, but there are certain things that have to come first. You have to get your fastball over on a regular basis and get your curveball over on a regular basis. Then, we'll worry about a third pitch."

Slumping Millar sits again

These are tough times for Kevin Millar, who did not start for a second straight game and is carrying the baggage of an 0-for-21 slump. The Orioles' first baseman/designated hitter, who lined out as a pinch hitter in the eighth yesterday against B.J. Ryan, doesn't have a hit since July 28.

Millar declined yesterday to discuss his decreased playing time, but did acknowledge earlier this week that his slump has made things difficult.

"There are no excuses," he said. "I have to find a way to put good [at-bats] together, period. I just have to find the groove because these are not fun times. But the one thing I am not going to do is feel sorry for myself."

Side session for Birkins

Orioles rookie reliever Kurt Birkins, on the disabled list with left elbow neuritis, will throw a side session tomorrow, likely at Single-A Frederick, and he could be sent out for a rehabilitation assignment early next week.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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