Zaun, horseshoe add some polish for busy week


The horseshoe that catcher Greg Zaun rubs for luck before each game may need a good polishing after the Orioles' weeklong road trip.

Starting catcher Chris Hoiles left Saturday's game with a strained left hamstring and did not play yesterday. The Orioles will know more about Hoiles' status later today.

However, even if Hoiles is not put on the disabled list, his playing status will remain iffy. Either way, Zaun figures to get more work.

"This is something I've wanted all of my life," Zaun said. "I am not the same kind of player as Chris. They're not looking for offensive firepower out of me, but I'll play good defense and get my share of hits."

Zaun, the nephew of former Orioles catcher Rick Dempsey, has made some contact since his recall from Rochester on June 19. Zaun has hit safely in six of his first 10 major-league games, although he went 0-for-3 yesterday, dropping his average to .207 through 29 at-bats.

His ascent to the majors began in Rochester, where he hit .290 with 13 doubles and six home runs. Zaun's assault on International League pitchers started when his friend gave him the horseshoe. He hit in 15 of the next 16 Triple-A games, and the horseshoe now hangs in his locker.

But the Orioles are primarily concerned with Zaun's defense. Thus far, he's a respectable 2-for-5 throwing out base-stealers, and he committed his first major-league error yesterday on a passed ball.

"He's a good student who is always learning," Orioles pitching coach Mike Flanagan said. "He's a quality major-league catcher. He has an above-average arm, he is above average defensively and he gives an above-average target."

The pitching staff also has grown to appreciate Zaun's ability to keep balls in front of him and call a game. "All of the guys are comfortable pitching to him," said reliever Mark Lee, who worked with Zaun in Rochester. "He has great energy. He keeps you up through the game."

Zaun said it's his defense that could keep him in the majors for years to come.

"If I hit .250 a year with five or 10 home runs and the pitchers do well, I'd be happy," Zaun said. "I could do that for a long time. I'd rather have three 20-game winners on the staff than hit .350."

And the horseshoe?

"You know, I didn't rub the horseshoe today, and I went oh-for and made an error," Zaun said while packing for Texas. "I am definitely pulling it down from my locker and taking it on the road. This is the first time I've ever done that."

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