Markakis Cleans Up Hitting 4th



Slumping Huff Gets Day Off

Lineup Changes Considered

July 27, 2009|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,

BOSTON - - When Orioles manager Dave Trembley decided to give slumping Aubrey Huff the day off in Sunday's series finale against the Boston Red Sox, he had a couple of options to fill Huff's cleanup spot. His decision to hit Nick Markakis there came down to one factor.

"I went up to him today and said, 'I'm putting you in the four-slot because you're our best guy,' " Trembley said. "Look how he played."

Hitting fourth for the first time this season and just the sixth time in his career, Markakis went 2-for-4 with a homer, double and three RBIs. In a much-needed 6-2 victory that broke the Orioles' 11-game Fenway Park losing streak, Markakis put his team on the board with a sacrifice fly in the first and then closed its scoring with a solo homer in the fifth.

It was a solid end to a road trip in which Markakis batted .368 with three doubles, four homers, eight runs and nine RBIs.

"Wherever it is in the lineup - fourth, third, second, fifth, sixth - you've got to go up there and do your job," said Markakis, who has hit second 13 times and third 82 times. "No matter where you are in the lineup, if you have guys in scoring position, you want to get that guy in. I could be hitting seventh for all I care."

With Huff in a 1-for-20 slump, Trembley said he planned to spend the flight home from Boston on Sunday considering lineup changes and whether to keep Markakis hitting fourth.

Looking ahead

If top pitching prospect Chris Tillman is seeking any advice on what to expect when he makes his major league debut Wednesday against the Kansas City Royals, he will have plenty of familiar faces to consult.

Matt Wieters, who caught Tillman at Double-A last year and Triple-A this season, can speak of handling the pressure of a much-anticipated debut. And if Tillman needs to hear it from a pitcher's perspective, three members of the Orioles' starting staff - Brad Bergesen, David Hernandez and Jason Berken - were his rotation mates last season at Double-A Bowie and made their debuts earlier this season.

Bergesen said he sent Tillman a congratulatory text message Saturday night after he heard the news. He also included some advice, writing: "Don't try to do anything different. You deserve it, you've been pitching great. Don't try to do anything more, don't do anything less."

Tillman, a 21-year-old right-hander, is 8-6 with a 2.70 ERA for Triple-A Norfolk.

"When you get a prospect like him up here who has that kind of ability and who has had the success that he's had in the minors, you're going to have the hype. But the key thing for him is once the game starts, just get back to what he's done in the minor leagues," Wieters said. "It's just pitching in a game. It's easier said than done, but I definitely think he has the ability to block most of that stuff out and just go out and pitch."

Making it more personal

Earlier this season, Trembley spoke of using then backup Chad Moeller - and not starter Gregg Zaun - as the personal catcher for No. 1 starter Jeremy Guthrie. The plan didn't last long, and now numbers suggest that Trembley might want to consider Zaun - and not Wieters - as the regular catcher for Guthrie.

With Zaun behind the plate, Guthrie is 6-1 with a 4.44 ERA in nine starts, and has given up seven homers in 52 2/3 innings. With Wieters catching him, the right-hander is 1-5 with a 6.21 ERA in eight starts and has surrendered 10 homers in 42 innings.

When you combine Guthrie's 11 starts caught by Moeller or Wieters, he is 1-8 with a 5.86 ERA and has allowed 16 of his American League-leading 23 homers.

"I think the guy who is pitching ... is responsible for what happens," said Trembley, who added that he has no plans to make Zaun Guthrie's personal catcher. "I don't think the guy behind the plate is responsible. I think the guy behind the plate is the guy who suggests. Obviously, there might be situations where guys feel more comfortable with other guys. I don't look at it that way."

Around the horn

Rookie outfielder Nolan Reimold had two more hits Sunday to finish the series 7-for-10 with an RBI, three doubles, two walks, three runs and two stolen bases. ... The Orioles won their third consecutive Sunday game and are 6-10 that day. ... Dennis Sarfate gave up two hits and a run in one inning in a rehabilitation appearance on Sunday night for Triple-A Norfolk. He was charged with the loss.

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