Payton's injury could change outfield mix

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Perlozzo considers extra fielder

Stern, Bynum are still in camp

March 28, 2007|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN REPORTER

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. -- Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo seems resigned to having left fielder Jay Payton begin the season on the disabled list with a left hamstring injury, which creates a second issue as Opening Day approaches:

Will the Orioles carry an extra outfielder, one who could serve as a defensive replacement, to compensate for Payton's absence?

Perlozzo told reporters yesterday that Payton's Grade 1 hamstring strain, which occurred in the first inning of Monday's game in Fort Myers, hasn't influenced whether the team will keep 12 or 13 pitchers. But he also noted that a defensive-oriented outfielder could become a higher priority.

His choices became clearer after yesterday's cuts. Adam Stern and Freddie Bynum remain in camp, and, earlier in the day, Perlozzo described them as players who best fit the profile because they can handle all three positions.

Meanwhile, the Orioles optioned pitcher Sean Tracey to Triple-A Norfolk and reassigned outfielder Jon Knott and catcher Eli Whiteside to minor league camp. They also announced that outfielder Ruddy Yan, infielders Cesar Crespo, Mike Cervenak and Terry Tiffee, catcher J.R. House and pitchers Andy Mitchell and Steve Green will remain with the club through the rest of the exhibition schedule before being reassigned.

Another possibility beyond Stern and Bynum is Kansas City Royals outfielder Reggie Sanders. The Orioles and Royals have had several discussions about the veteran right-handed hitter in recent days, according to an industry source. Kansas City is seeking a reliever, but any deal most likely would hinge on the team's picking up most of Sanders' $5 million contract for 2007. The Orioles, in turn, would have to make sure they could provide enough at-bats for Sanders to keep him happy.

Early estimates have Payton missing one to three weeks.

"Hamstrings are more than day-to-day, but I don't want to guess," Perlozzo said. "It's still sore. To me, it sounds like it's more than a couple days."

Perlozzo will delay finalizing his roster until he has a clearer read on Payton's condition.

Payton missed about seven weeks of the 1998 season with a badly torn right hamstring while playing in the minors. This injury isn't nearly as severe, but it still could remove him from the starting lineup for Monday's opener in Minnesota.

"I'm going to do whatever I have to do to get it right," he said. "I don't want it to be something that's going to linger. The first few days, it's kind of hard to get a gauge on it. I've only been on the DL once in the last seven years. My preference is not to be on it. But if that's what has to happen, it's better to be a little cautious now."

Stern sick

Stern is hoping to seize the opportunity to make the club as a fourth bench player, but his body keeps fighting him.

No longer bothered by a strained right oblique muscle, Stern is trying to regain his strength after contracting food poisoning. He spent most of Monday in bed and returned to the clubhouse yesterday looking pale and weak.

Stern has been limited to 15 at-bats this spring.

"Coming in sick the last couple days, any time you miss time is not good," he said. "What could I do? I'm hungry, I've got to eat, and I end up with food poisoning. It just seems like I've got this black cloud over me with this kind of stuff."

O's swing deal

Not long after selecting outfielder Cory Keylor as their minor league Player of the Year, the Orioles traded him to the Boston Red Sox yesterday for catcher Alberto Castillo.

Keylor, a non-roster invitee to camp, batted .294 with 68 RBIs at Double-A Bowie. Castillo has batted .222 over 11 major league seasons.

Castillo, 37, will report to camp today.

Around the horn

Reliever Chris Ray left camp in the morning and was examined by a local doctor after complaining of sinus pain. ... Donald Fehr, executive director of the players association, made his annual visit to camp. Fehr confirmed the next World Baseball Classic is scheduled for March 2009. ... The Orioles worked out 6-foot-6 pitcher Luis Martinez for the second straight day and soon will decide whether to sign him. The Washington Nationals cut the Fort Lauderdale resident, and he has been visiting area camps.

roch.kubatko@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Jeff Zrebiec contributed to this article.

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