Flat at bat, Gomez tries it as 'do, too


Third baseman Leo Gomez has a new haircut, a flattop with his hair closely cropped in the back and on the sides.

"No more hippie; nice guy now," Gomez told several of his dugout mates.

The haircut is new, but, actually, the attitude is the same. Gomez always has been a nice guy. He was nice last season when he took Chris Sabo's job away and he has been a nice guy this season when Jeff Manto took his.

Gomez got a second chance after Manto went on the disabled list June 25. Gomez started seven of the past 10 games, but went 1-for-19 -- 2-for-20 including his pinch-hit double Monday against Minnesota.

He didn't make the most of the opportunity but, unlike other disgruntled Orioles earlier this year, the third baseman isn't blaming the manager or the fans or the media.

And he hasn't given up hope.

"You try to be ready," Gomez said. "I can't worry about the lineup, about something I have no control."

Jeff Huson went 3-for-4 last night to lift his average to .364 in his third start in four days; Manto is due back off the disabled shortly after the All-Star break. In effect, Gomez is the third-string third baseman.

Gomez admitted that he has been pressing the last week and a half, knowing, that with Manto out, it was the best time to get his job back.

"A little bit," Gomez said, "I don't try to think about it anymore."

It hasn't been his year. His 2-for-20 swoon has lowered his batting average to .195 (17-for-87), and he has no home runs and four RBIs. Earlier this season, he lost his salary arbitration case and settled for half of the $1.85 million he was asking for.

One thing Gomez has going for him is experience. He is third on the Orioles' all-time list behind Brooks Robinson and Doug DeCinces with 426 games played at third base. He has been around. He knows that it is a long season, and another opportunity will arise.

"This season is half over, but we'll see," said Gomez, 28. "We've got a lot more games to go. Maybe things will change, maybe they'll stay the same."

Instead of whining about his lack of playing time, Gomez has been seeking the counsel of other veteran players such as Harold Baines, Cal Ripken and Kevin Bass about how to handle the situation, about how to stay in the right frame of mind.

"The only thing they told me was be ready and work hard," Gomez said.

Work he has. Gomez has taken extra batting practice with hitting coach Lee May, and he fields ground balls at third before every game.

Improving his hitting and fielding are the only two things Gomez can control. He doesn't worry about anything else.

"I don't want to go crazy," Gomez said. "I just want to do my best, try to stay in shape, try to help the team win."

Whether playing or not, Gomez already was a nice guy. His new haircut was an act of vanity.

"I just want to be good-looking," Gomez said.

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