Pie's swing rounds out

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

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Outfielder learning virtue of hitting to opposite field

April 11, 2009|By Dan Connolly | Dan Connolly,dan.connolly@baltsun.com

In his second start as an Oriole, Felix Pie had two of the club's seven hits against tough New York Yankees starting pitcher A.J. Burnett on Thursday afternoon.

What is most intriguing is where those hits landed: left-center field.

The left-handed-hitting Pie was thought to be "pull happy" when he came over from the Chicago Cubs. This spring, hitting coach Terry Crowley deconstructed his swing.

"I'm working on making my swing a little shorter, work the other way and don't pull it," Pie said. "I've worked all spring training with the hitting coach, Crow. Stay and wait for the ball."

One pitch was out over the plate, and Pie hit it over the shortstop's head.

"It didn't happen by happenstance. It didn't happen by chance," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "We are trying to get him to do some things that we feel would allow him to be a whole lot more successful. We don't want him to yank the ball."

Pie has been taking early batting practice - about 10 minutes a day - with Crowley before the club goes outside to hit. The focus, Crowley said, is not to stop him from pulling pitches, but to get him to use all options.

"To play in the major leagues you have to use the whole field. I like it when he hits the ball the other way, and I like it when he pulls the ball," Crowley said. "If he develops the way I'd like to see him develop, he is going to hit some home runs, and I think the home runs will be pulled. As much as I liked the base hits going the other way, you've got to pull the ball if you want to hit some home runs."

After his two-hit day, Pie sat Friday in favor of Ryan Freel. It's part of the Orioles' plan to involve all their players and bring Pie, 24, along slowly.

"He got two hits [Thursday], but he fully understands we are going to use all 25 guys; he's not going to be in there [Friday]," Crowley said. "He'll get plenty of time to play, and if he keeps getting those hits and plays hard on defense, his playing time will be there for him."

Freel gets start

Freel became the last Orioles hitter to get an at-bat when he started Friday's game in left field. Freel entered Thursday's game as a defensive replacement.

Freel said he understands his role, but he also knows how different it is to be a bench player in the American League.

"In the National League, you feel like you're going to go in at some point in the game, whether it be on defense, a double switch, pinch hit," Freel said. "Here [in the AL], when you get on the bench, you're pretty much on the bench."

Roster decision looms

The Orioles have not officially decided who will be taken off the 25-man roster when Adam Eaton is added to start Sunday's game. The likeliest candidates are relievers Matt Albers (who has a minor league option) and Brian Bass (who is out of options), although Trembley didn't rule out it could be a hitter. A decision won't be made until after Saturday's game.

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