Gibbons ready for `utility' role

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Veteran worked at first base in offseason, but willing to accept a shifting position

February 19, 2007|By Jeff Zrebiec and Roch Kubatko | Jeff Zrebiec and Roch Kubatko,Sun reporters

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Jay Gibbons arrived at Fort Lauderdale Stadium yesterday to take his physical and immediately found himself in a quandary. While filling out a form during the physical, Gibbons needed to put down what position he plays.

"I just put `utility,'" he said. "It's weird. We'll see what happens. We have a lot of guys who play a lot of the same positions right now. Let's just play some spring training games and see how things work out. I could be a guy who shifts around everywhere. I could get used to that, I guess."

Gibbons, 29, has never been known for his defense, one of the reasons that he laughed at the thought of him being a utility man. But he also knows that if he is going to avoid being the club's everyday designated hitter, something he'd desperately like to do, he is going to have to prove that he can at least play passable defense in left field and at first base.

And he is also going to have to prove that he can stay healthy. Gibbons played in only 90 games last year after hurting his right knee after running into the outfield wall in Anaheim, Calif. He disputed the theory that he needs to be the team's designated hitter to stay off the disabled list.

"I'm healthy right now and that's all I can look at," said Gibbons, who worked on strengthening his legs this offseason and said they are in better shape than they have ever been. "You can't worry about getting hurt. I'd rather play the field, but ... I'm clumsy as can be. I could trip walking out of here. It's going to make no difference. If I'm going to get hurt, I'm going to get hurt."

Gibbons, who hasn't played first base regularly since he was in the minor leagues, worked at the position with Orioles bench coach Tom Trebelhorn throughout the offseason. Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo said that Trebelhorn's reports on Gibbons were "all good stuff." Gibbons just wants to make sure that he gets a fair shot at winning the first base job.

"I just want to play games there," Gibbons said. "The only way to get better is to be in there and make mistakes and learn from them. We've got a lot of first basemen here. I haven't talked to [Perlozzo]. I don't know what his plans are. I'll do what he tells me."

Perlozzo isn't worried about Gibbons, saying, "I think if we get him in the batting box as much as we want, it always has a way of easing somebody's pain."

Expecting big things

Having seen plenty of Miguel Tejada in the Caribbean World Series, catcher Ramon Hernandez is predicting big things from the Orioles' shortstop, who may report to camp today.

"He worked hard almost the whole offseason," Hernandez said. "I think Miggy is going to have a very, very good year. He's going to have all his numbers and he's going to have more homers. He hit 24 last year. I am saying that he is going to hit 30-plus this year. He is in great shape.

"Every time I see him, I look at him as my best friend. I am happy we are still playing. You never know when it is going to end. We're not going to play forever. We enjoy it every time we play against each other."

Rain no problem

Perlozzo cut the team's workout short yesterday because of the rainy and windy conditions. Catchers took some batting practice and pitchers worked on their pickoff moves and did some other drills, but did not throw.

"This is actually not a bad day to miss," Perlozzo said. "Our pitchers are all going to throw three out of five days. That's probably the way we want it to fall. It actually lands pretty good. But we got some really good stuff done today that needs to get done - sign-wise, controlling the running game-wise and getting a head start on the bunt-play stuff."

Around the horn

The Orioles finalized a one-year deal yesterday with pitcher Hayden Penn. ... Perlozzo acknowledged that there are probably only two or three open spots available on the 25-man roster. ... Kevin Millar and Brian Roberts were expected to arrive in Florida yesterday and could take some batting practice at today's workouts.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com roch.kubatko@baltsun.com

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