Action at plate makes Millar good bet for '08

Once considered the odd man out, he's closing in on guaranteed option

Notebook

September 02, 2007|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,Sun Reporter

BOSTON -- Kevin Millar reminded reporters all spring that lineup forecasting was pointless, because "things have a way of working themselves out."

Millar was expected to be the odd man out this season, losing at-bats in the first base, designated hitter and left-field shuffle to Jay Gibbons, Jay Payton and Aubrey Huff. However, all he's done is become the club's everyday first baseman and a fixture in the middle of the lineup.

He entered last night's game with 449 plate appearances. He signed a one-year $2.75 million deal this offseason with a 2008 guaranteed option that will vest at 475 plate appearances. With more than a month to play, it's become almost a formality that Millar will return next season barring an injury or an offseason trade.

"When I signed this offseason, you always expect it to vest," said Millar, who entered last night hitting .261 with 14 home runs and 57 RBIs. "I expected to be the first baseman. I never got caught up in the whole Jay Gibbons, Aubrey Huff, Jay Payton and Kevin Millar saga that goes on every year. I know everything works out."

Orioles manager Dave Trembley said he wasn't aware of the vesting option and it wouldn't affect his decisions on the lineup in September.

"I put the players out there that can help us win," he said. "I stay away from the business side of things. Those things do not affect the decisions I make and the lineup I write."

Asked if he was fine with Millar's option vesting, Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said: "That's up to the manager, and he's going to play as long as he thinks he's the best guy to play on that given day. Obviously, [Millar's] been productive for us. He brings things to the team beyond the statistical analysis."

Several teams made inquiries about Millar in possible trades, but the veteran didn't want to leave Baltimore.

"I wanted to stay here," he said. "It would have been too easy to leave. I could have easily asked for a trade. But I do want to be a part of this turnaround."

Trembley not proud

Trembley said he was moving on from Friday night's ejection, when he was tossed by first base umpire and crew chief Joe West after arguing for an obstruction call in the fourth inning. West said after the game that Trembley made contact with him, an assertion that the Orioles manager denied. Asked whether he expected to be fined or suspended, Trembley said, "I'm not aware of anything like that."

Every time a player or manager is ejected, it is reviewed by the league. However, in most cases, the reviews usually don't take place over the weekend.

Moore in, Mora out

Third baseman Scott Moore, who was acquired a day earlier from the Chicago Cubs in the Steve Trachsel trade, was in the starting lineup last night in place of Melvin Mora. Trembley has said that Moore and the other upcoming September call-ups will play.

Asked whetherMora may have to accept a reduced role, Trembley said: "I don't think Melvin's alone in that. I think a couple of other guys come up here, I'm going to play them. I'm not going to play them three or four days in a row, but I'm going to give them opportunities to play."

Walker fine

The Orioles got a scare Friday night when Jamie Walker, one of the only reliable options in their bullpen, was limping around the mound in the seventh inning. Walker said he felt a tweak in his groin while covering first base on Coco Crisp's infield single, but said it isn't "any big deal."

Around the horn

Trembley said that a decision still hasn't been made on who will start tomorrow's series opener against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Reliever Kurt Birkins or minor leaguers Hayden Penn or Jim Johnson appear to be the top candidates. ... In his second rehabilitation start, Jaret Wright allowed one run on three hits in one inning for Double-A Bowie on Friday.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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