Millar refuses to knuckle under vs. Wakefield



Veteran has .444 average against Tim Wakefield

July 13, 2008|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,Sun reporter

BOSTON - Kevin Millar offers simple advice for anyone trying to hit a knuckleball: Don't take it too seriously.

Millar has the numbers to back himself up.

After last night's game, Millar led all Orioles hitters with a .444 career average against Boston Red Sox starter Tim Wakefield, collecting 12 hits in 27 at-bats. He had three doubles, three homers and eight RBIs.

Meanwhile, Aubrey Huff was hitting .173 (9-for-52), Brian Roberts .182 (8-for-44), Nick Markakis .188 (3-for-16) and Jay Payton .083 (1-for-12).

"You have to have fun with it," said Millar, who served as the designated hitter last night and went 1-for-3 against Wakefield, singling in the second. "I've basically taken the approach where I spread my feet out and I go in there just in full-on launch mode. If it's high, let it fly. If it's low, let it go. Have fun with it. I come to the dish and I think of just trying to get a home run."

Millar has taken a few swings against other knuckleballers, but Wakefield is the king.

"He's tough," Millar said. "Sometimes he'll throw one that stays, and you're like, 'Well, that didn't do much,' and you might take that one. Then the next one looks like it's doing the same thing, and it just falls. It's like a Bugs Bunny show. But you can't get frustrated"

Being a former teammate with the Red Sox, Millar studied Wakefield from first base and noticed the different adjustments hitters tried to make.

"It's funny," Millar said. "The ones who have fun with it hit him well. It's basically 50-50. He doesn't know what it's going to do, either. He'll throw one 63, 64 [mph], and then all of a sudden, 70. The thing that makes it harder now is he's throwing a lot more slow curveballs. If he's throwing it for strikes, it makes it a little tougher."

Some players claim chasing knuckleballs messes up their swings for days, a theory that Millar doesn't buy.

"That's just a big excuse," he said. "Swing as hard as you can and hopefully he throws a couple fat ones. If not, you can look pretty ridiculous and get embarrassed."

Minor league injuries

Kyle Hudson, the Orioles' fourth-round pick out of the University of Illinois, apparently won't need surgery to repair a broken right hand.

Hudson, an outfielder, suffered the injury while diving into second base during a July 4 game for Single-A short-season Aberdeen. He was hitting .216 in 11 games.

David Stockstill, the Orioles' director of player development, said Hudson is expected to miss four to five weeks.

"He was checked out by a hand specialist to see if he'd be out for the season, but it didn't look that serious," Stockstill said. "He can rehab it."

If Hudson doesn't return to Aberdeen, he could play in the fall instructional league.

"It was a clean fracture, but it's small," said Joe Jordan, director of scouting. "This is going to eat up a good portion of the summer for him."

Meanwhile, Double-A Bowie pitcher Chris Tillman was scheduled to throw a bullpen session yesterday after being hit on the left ankle by a sharp grounder during his most recent start.

"It's coming along fine," Stockstill said. "We're not expecting any problems."

Tillman is 7-3 with a 3.12 ERA and 87 strikeouts in 83 2/3 innings over 18 starts.

Matusz negotiations

Negotiations are continuing with pitcher Brian Matusz, the Orioles' first-round pick out of the University of San Diego, and both sides are confident that a deal will get done long before the Aug. 15 deadline.

The Orioles were hoping to announce Matusz's signing and introduce him to fans at Camden Yards during the previous homestand, but they'll have to wait.

"Only two of the top 10 guys are signed. It's the normal process now, where guys just wait and let the market get defined," Jordan said. "We're real close. There's no question in my mind this guy is part of what we're doing, when all is said and done. Hopefully, we can wrap it up sooner rather than later."

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