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Orioles' Nate McLouth thriving in the leadoff role

The primary goal of any leadoff man is to get on base, and Orioles left fielder Nate McLouth is beginning to fill that role nicely.

McLouth reached base in his first four plate appearances in the Orioles' 6-5, 11-inning loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday afternoon. He finished 2-for-3 with a single, double and two walks while scoring three runs and adding an RBI. In his past 19 plate appearance, McLouth has reached base 12 times.

"I do feel comfortable there," McLouth said of batting leadoff. "I like it, but I really don't see myself approaching my at-bats any differently if I were hitting anywhere else. I feel like that's my job, to get on base as many times as I can. Sometimes when the time calls for it, make the pitcher throw some pitches and things like that. I've been able to do that lately, and the guys in back of me have been real good about bringing me around."

In his 14 starts hitting in the leadoff spot — Nick Markakis has batted leadoff in the other seven games — McLouth is batting .321 (17-for-53), has drawn 12 walks, scored 14 runs and owns a .446 on-base percentage.

"I think it's not having the fear of hitting with two strikes, not being afraid of hitting behind in the count," McLouth said. "Manny [Machado is] getting really good at it, too, and also not trying to do too much. I think that I see the ball better when I just [swing] nice and easy and not try and do more than I'm capable of, so I think that's a big part of it."

O's will add reliever

Manager Buck Showalter mentioned that he would have loved not having to make a roster move as the team went west for an 11-day, 11-game road trip to Oakland, Seattle and Anaheim. But after his relievers threw 5 1/3 innings Wednesday, he will likely need some reinforcements.

The Orioles optioned Wednesday's starter, right-hander Josh Stinson, back to Triple-A Norfolk after the game and will make a corresponding move before Thursday's series opener in Oakland.

The team sent down right-handed reliever Alex Burnett to make room for Stinson, so he can't return for 10 days barring an injury. That leaves left-hander Mike Belfiore as the lone available reliever on the current 40-man roster, but he pitched two innings Wednesday.

Starter Zach Clark, who is also on the 40-man roster, hasn't pitched since Saturday and isn't scheduled to pitch in Norfolk until Sunday, so the UMBC product could also be an option if the Orioles desire length in the bullpen.

Non-roster options could include Jairo Asencio, Adam Russell and Daniel Schlereth, who have all pitched well in Triple-A, but would need to be added to the 40-man roster first.

Around the horn

Right-hander Steve Johnson, making his first minor league rehab start for Triple-A Norfolk, allowed four runs on six hits over his scheduled five innings of work Wednesday. Johnson has been on the disabled list with a lat strain since March 31. He threw 67 pitches. … Center fielder Adam Jones' RBI double Wednesday gave him hits in 19 of the Orioles' 21 games. Jones has reached safely in all but one. … After completing their homestand with a 6-3 record, the Orioles are 30-13 at Camden Yards since July 29, 2012. … Left-hander Brian Matusz, who stranded three baserunners in the 11th inning, has now stranded all 24 inherited runners since he was moved to the bullpen last season. … Toronto manager John Gibbons, who had been jawing with home plate umpire Mike DiMuro throughout Wednesday's game, was ejected after a called strike three on Brett Lawrie that ended the top of the ninth inning. ... Online fan balloting for the All-Star Game began Wednesday. The following Orioles are on the American League ballot: Catcher Matt Wieters, first baseman Chris Davis, second baseman Brian Roberts, third baseman Machado, shortstop J.J. Hardy, outfielders Jones, Markakis and McLouth and designated hitter Nolan Reimold.

eencina@baltsun.com

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