On most days, Perlozzo wants Payton in left


Versatility is key attribute O's are seeking in last man

March 14, 2007|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN REPORTER

JUPITER, FLA. -- A day after acknowledging that Jay Gibbons will not be playing first base anytime soon, Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo took his strongest stance yet on the left-field situation, saying Jay Payton will get the majority of starts there.

"We got Jay Payton to play left field most of the time, I would think, or at least a good portion of the time," Perlozzo said. "I think that is a normal assumption. We didn't go out and get him to sit [on] the bench."

It was originally thought Aubrey Huff, another free-agent addition, could get a lot of starts in left, but it appears he'll play mostly at first base. That leaves Gibbons and Kevin Millar battling for at-bats at designated hitter.

There are other scenarios. Payton will likely play center field against tough left-handers in place of Corey Patterson, and when he does, Gibbons, Huff and even Millar could get a shot in left field. Either way, Orioles officials insist nothing has been decided and there are plenty of at-bats to go around.

"Somebody has to go play left field occasionally," Perlozzo said. "That's just all there is to it. There has to be a body that goes out there."

Gibbons has played just two games in left field this spring, and Huff and Millar have done it only once each. Perlozzo said he wants to get a longer look at all three there before the end of spring.

Meanwhile, the news that Gibbons is no longer being considered as a candidate for the everyday first base job was met with shrugs by Millar and Huff.

"I am not really in a position battle," Huff said. "I am going to get my at-bats. Whether it will be at first or left, it really doesn't bother me."

Said Millar, who is out until later this week with a forearm injury: "I don't think it affects me at all. We all play a bunch of positions. That's the way they built the roster to give Sam Perlozzo the flexibility. I don't know why anything is being made [this early]. But that's Gibbons' business. My business is to get my forearm ready and play. But it's still early. We have 20 games left."

Still looking

Perlozzo continued to tinker with defensive combinations, trying to maximize the versatility of the candidates for the final roster spot. Second baseman Freddie Bynum made his first spring start at shortstop, and outfielder Jason Dubois made his at first base. Third baseman Mike Cervenak also spent time in pre-game taking balls in the outfield.

The Orioles would like to have another right-handed batter on the bench, but, at this point, flexibility is probably the most important thing.

"It doesn't do you any good if you are a right-handed bat and you can't do anything but hit," Perlozzo said. "We're looking for someone who has to have some flexibility to do something else for us. That's the mix that we are kind of looking at."

Dubois had several chances at first. He allowed Eric Reed's double to get under his mitt in the second, and he couldn't field Mike Jacobs' bouncer in the fifth. Meanwhile, Bynum, who also could be given a look at first base, handled his chances at shortstop flawlessly.

"You don't want to get fooled in the spring," Perlozzo said. "You want to keep shooting them in there as much as you can and get the best read that we can."

Around the horn

Scheduled to start yesterday, Gibbons was scratched from the lineup and stayed at Fort Lauderdale Stadium to get treatment for an abdominal strain. Perlozzo said the club will likely hold Gibbons out for "a couple of days." Gibbons downplayed the injury, saying he could have played yesterday. ... Perlozzo said he still plans to use Chris Gomez occasionally as a late-inning defensive replacement at first base. ... Nonroster pitcher Victor Moreno left camp on Monday because of an illness in his family. It's unknown when he'll be back.


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