Markakis moves into No. 3 hole

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Flip-flopped with Mora in lineup, rookie responds with HR in first

August 31, 2006|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,Sun reporter

ARLINGTON, TEXAS -- For months, the Orioles treaded carefully with rookie outfielder Nick Markakis, not moving him from out of the bottom of the lineup until his scorching bat left them with little choice.

However, after watching Markakis continue his tear from the No. 2 spot in the lineup, it took less than two weeks for Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo to decide that the 22-year-old is ready for another challenge. Perlozzo flip-flopped Markakis and Melvin Mora in his lineup for last night's game against the Texas Rangers, moving the rookie to third in front of Miguel Tejada. The move paid immediate dividends as Markakis hit a two-run homer in the first inning last night.

"He's really hitting," said Perlozzo, who met with both Markakis and Mora before the game to inform him of the change. "The guy has been hitting better than anybody we got over the last couple of months."

Since being moved into the No. 2 slot on Aug. 16 in New York, Markakis was 18-for-46 with a double and seven home runs in 12 games. Mora, meanwhile, has struggled recently, going 6-for-33 in his past nine games. He entered last night with just 12 extra-base hits since June 1.

Perlozzo said he is hoping that the move will not only jumpstart Mora's bat, but it will make the Orioles a little more difficult to face late in the game. With Brandon Fahey expected to be in the No. 9 spot more regularly since the trade of Jeff Conine, that gave opposing managers the option of bringing in a left-hander to face in succession - the left-handed Fahey, switch-hitting leadoff man Brian Roberts and the left-handed Markakis.

"I am going to take the same approach," Markakis said. "Obviously, Sam thinks it is going to make us a better team, so I have no problem with it."

Making moves

Two days before rosters are eligible to expand, the Orioles made a couple of moves, including designating struggling left-handed reliever Tim Byrdak for assignment to make room for catcher Danny Ardoin.

The Orioles claimed Ardoin, 32, who batted .193 in 35 games this year, on waivers from the Colorado Rockies. Over four major league seasons, Ardoin has a career .206 average with seven home runs and 30 RBIs. Ardoin, who arrived at Ameriquest Field, about 30 minutes before game time last night, will give the Orioles some insurance with backup catcher Chris Widger unavailable because of a pinched nerve in his right shoulder.

"This is a guy we liked," Orioles vice president Jim Duquette said. "We had good reports on him the last two years and we've been looking to try to upgrade from the catching standpoint. The fact that Widger got hurt was coincidental."

Byrdak, who the Orioles now have 10 days to either trade, release or outright him to the minors, never was able to find his form from last season, when he was a dependable left-handed relief specialist. This season, Byrdak was 1-0 with a 12.86 ERA in 17 games, struggling to return from surgery to have bone chips removed from his left elbow in April. Left-handers were hitting .381 against him, while right-handers were hitting .545.

The Orioles also completed the Conine trade yesterday, acquiring 25-year-old infielder Angel Chavez from the Philadelphia Phillies as the player to be named later. Chavez, who was assigned to Double-A Bowie, hit .276 with six home runs and 28 RBIs in Triple-A this year after hitting .255 with five home runs and 32 RBIs in 63 games for Double-A Reading.

Patterson feeling better

Center fielder Corey Patterson, who sprained the AC joint in his right shoulder slamming into the wall to make a catch in Tuesday's series opener, was out of the lineup last night and likely won't play until this weekend at the earliest.

Perlozzo called Patterson day-to-day, but said it is possible that he will be out "five days or longer."

Around the horn

Boston minor league outfielder Adam Stern, the player that the Red Sox agreed to send the Orioles in the trade for catcher Javy Lopez, was put on the 60-day disabled list this week with hamstring problems. Stern, who was claimed by another team in the waiver process, preventing him from joining the organization right away, is still expected to become an Oriole after the season.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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