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After 2,500th hit, Guerrero could be relegated to pinch hitter

Orioles DH probably won't start many games in outfield during interleague play

By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun

6:58 PM EDT, June 16, 2011

TORONTO —

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Orioles designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero picked up his 2,500th career hit with an RBI double Thursday afternoon against the Toronto Blue Jays.

His 2,501st may come as a pinch-hitter.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter said he would speak to Guerrero on the flight home Thursday about Guerrero's role in the next six games, which will be played in National League parks without the option of using the DH. A final decision has not yet been made, Showalter said.

But Guerrero won't be starting Friday against the Washington Nationals and it's likely he won't start most, if any, of those games in the outfield against the Nationals and Pittsburgh Pirates.

Guerrero has started 63 of the Orioles' 66 contests this year, hitting .288 with six homers and 27 RBIs. All of those games have come as a DH. He has started 18 games in the outfield since the beginning of 2009, with 16 of those coming last year.

While playing in the field in 2010, Guerrero batted .234 with four homers in 64 at-bats. As a DH, he hit .306 with 25 homers in 523 at-bats. He also saw a serious drop in power between his first and second halves of 2010.

So Showalter, in an attempt to keep the 36-year-old healthy and prospering, may decide to exclusively bring him off the bench in the next six games.

"It's up to Buck, whatever he wants," Guerrero said through an interpreter. "I am willing to play the outfield. Whatever they need me to do, I'll do."

Guerrero shags fly balls during most pre-game batting practices and said he'd like to play in left in interleague games — Adam Jones and Nick Markakis are set in center and right, respectively — if given the opportunity. But he'll do whatever is asked.

"Last year was the same thing. I played a couple games in the outfield last year and I am always, during batting practice, [in] the outfield getting fly balls, so I feel pretty comfortable there," he said. "I'll be prepared to pinch-hit. I've done it in the past, the pinch-hitting role. I am prepared for it if that's what [Showalter] wants."

As for his 2,500th hit, Guerrero said he didn't know he was closing in on the number until a young female fan told him on Wednesday.

"That's 15 years in the big leagues and that means [I've] had a lot of hits and [that] feels good," he said.

He said the magical 3,000 milestone could be reachable, "If God keeps [me] healthy, you never know."

Said Showalter: "I have been able to step back and take in how lucky we are and fortunate we are to be there for something like that. This guy is going into the Hall of Fame. I am glad I got to be there for it and be part of it. Don't rule out 3,000 with him."

Jakubauskas on Adair

When pitching coach Mark Connor stepped down Monday and turned the job over to bullpen coach Rick Adair, there was perhaps no one in the Orioles clubhouse who was better prepared for the change than right-hander Chris Jakubauskas.

Jakubauskas spent part of this year in the bullpen, so he dealt with Adair in that capacity. But he's known Adair since 2009, when Jakubauskas debuted with the Seattle Mariners and Adair was the pitching coach.

"He was big for me, obviously, because '09, that was my rookie year," Jakubauskas said. "He was my first big league pitching coach."

Jakubauskas said Adair's approach then was similar to what it is now: he'll tinker with specific mechanics, but he lets pitchers be themselves.

"Especially with me, and I can't speculate for everybody else, there has not been major overhauls, just tinkering," Jakubauskas said. "Whether it is weight on your toe or something like that. It's not a lot of major changes. Guys are throwing the way they are throwing for a reason and they've gotten here. So he's more about maintenance and kind of tinkering here and there."

Jakubauskas, who was struck in the head with a liner in April 2010 and hadn't pitched since in the big leagues, signed a minor league deal with the Orioles in late January. Adair urged the club to pursue Jakubauskas. He didn't have an official spring training invite from the Orioles, but pitched well in March and was first called up in April.

"He stuck his neck out for me. It's kind of what he did in 2009 [as a rookie]," Jakubauskas said. "He put my name in [in Baltimore] and luckily I had a pretty good track record and my main thing was to kind of make him look smart. To come into camp and have a good camp and show that I can pitch still and I did that. But he definitely had a hand in getting me signed."

Matusz excited for Saturday start

Lefty Brian Matusz, who recorded just four outs while giving up four earned runs in his outing last Sunday against the Tampa Bay Rays, said he is looking forward to pitching again Saturday.

"I am excited to get back out there but I also know the next few days are important to be able to work and get myself on track," said Matusz, who is 1-1 with a 5.11 ERA in three starts since returning from the disabled list with an intercostal muscle strain. "I am feeling good about it. You remember the things that you need to, to be able to get better. But you forget about the [bad] game."

Matusz pitched a bullpen session Wednesday and said he felt good mentally and physically. Now he needs to carry that over against the Nationals' lineup. There have been concerns that his velocity has not returned to his 2009 form and that he may not be back to full strength.

"Physically, I feel great. Physically, I am 100 percent," Matusz said. "It's mentally I am doing the things I need to do to get back on track. And that feels good."

Duchscherer halts outing in first

Right-hander Justin Duchscherer's health woes continued Thursday, when his outing at extended spring training in Sarasota, Fla., ended in the first.

Duchscherer was supposed to throw between 60 to 70 pitches, but Showalter said he believed he faced one batter, who bunted. Duchscherer attempted to field the bunt, felt discomfort in his surgically repaired left hip and left the mound.

"It's frustrating for him, I'm sure," Showalter said.

The Orioles aren't counting on Duchscherer, but his situation soon gets more complicated. Extended spring training games — exhibitions that are often used for rehabbing or inexperienced players to work in game situations — end as the Gulf Coast League begins next week. So for Duchscherer to pitch in another game, he'd likely have to go on a rehab assignment, which would expire after 30 days. Since he hasn't pitched away from Sarasota, he does not appear 30 days away from joining the Orioles.

Around the horn

Jakubauskas is scheduled to start Sunday's game. It was previously listed as "to be announced" in case there was a need to fortify the bullpen. … Ryan Adams made his sixth start at second base since being recalled May 20. He picked up his first career RBI in the ninth. … Shortstop J.J. Hardy hit his seventh homer as an Oriole on Thursday. The club's shortstops from 2008 to 2010 combined for seven total homers. … Toronto catcher Jose Molina was ejected in the seventh inning by home plate umpire Bob Davidson for arguing balls and strikes. … The Orioles' 16-game losing streak in Toronto was the longest in baseball history since Tampa Bay dropped 18 straight in Cleveland from 2005 to 2010.

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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