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Regan sees situational breakdowns

THE BALTIMORE SUN

OAKLAND, Calif. -- There are any number of reasons the Orioles have not played to expectations this year. But one of the breakdowns, manager Phil Regan conceded yesterday, has been in situational hitting and pitch selection.

Regan used rookies Curtis Goodwin and Manny Alexander as examples. Goodwin, theoretically the Orioles' leadoff hitter of the future, had gone 98 plate appearances without a base on balls before reaching on a walk in the first inning last night.

They aren't alone, however. From Brady Anderson to Harold Baines to Bret Barberie, the Orioles have been guilty of poor situational hitting.

A glaring example occurred last weekend in Boston. With the Orioles trailing knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, 3-0, both Goodwin and Alexander jumped ahead on the count 2-0, and then swung at the next pitch. Wakefield no-hit the Orioles into the seventh inning, despite throwing strikes on only 65 of his 128 pitches.

Regan said the weakness in recognizing when to take pitches prompted him to call Dave Jauss, the Orioles minor-league coordinator of instruction. "I told him we really need to start explaining these things to minor-leaguers," Regan said. "Like taking pitches leading off an inning."

Baines to see more lefties

Regan has started designated hitter Harold Baines almost exclusively against right-handers this year, and often pinch-hit for him whenever a left-hander was brought in relief. But on Wednesday, Regan met with Baines and told him that he would start against most left-handers.

"We're just looking for more [consistency] from the lineup, more runs," said Regan. "He's hitting about .300 against left-handers, so we're going to try it that way."

Unexpected returns

Outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds and pitcher Ben McDonald have been out so long, Regan said yesterday, that it might be time to make plans for the rest of the year under the assumption neither one will recover enough to help the club.

Hammonds has a strained trapezius muscle in his neck and may return sometime late in September. "I guess I don't know what to think about Ben," Regan said. "We give him a lot of rest, we get him to the point where he throws 40 pitches, then 70-75 pitches, and the next day he has a little setback.

"I would say right now, we need to focus on what we can do without him."

Regan talked to McDonald on Thursday about possibly pitching out of the bullpen whenever he comes back (at the earliest, McDonald figures he'll return in two weeks), in case his arm strength isn't built up completely.

Goodwin comes home

Goodwin walked into the visitors' clubhouse yesterday and looked around. "Nothing's really changed," he said, "since the last time I was here."

Goodwin figures he was about 10 years old at the time, visiting the clubhouse with former Yankees center fielder Mickey Rivers. Goodwin grew up a couple of miles from Oakland Coliseum, and he admitted to tremendous nervousness about playing in front of friends and family as a big-leaguer for the first time. "I've had butterflies," he said, "since I got here last night. I think that's the way it is for just about everybody when they play at home for the first time."

Goodwin left more than 30 tickets for friends, although he couldn't keep everyone happy. He got a call early yesterday morning from someone claiming to be Golden State Warriors guard Tim Hardaway. "You got any tickets for me?" the Hardaway wannabe asked.

What's on his plate?

Rookie left-hander Rick Krivda specializes in personalized license plates. When he was in high school, his license plate read "KRIV 11," No. 11 being his preference. In college, he changed that to "GASFACE," which was what he gave a hitter after blowing him away with a fastball. He had a big strikeout year in the minors, and changed his plate to "CANK2U."

Now, his license plate reads, "UP2WIN."

What will it be next year, now that he's made the big leagues?

"I don't know," he said. "It's getting expensive, having all these personalized plates. I might just keep this one."

HITS AND MISSES

On the field: Curtis Goodwin had gone 98 straight plate appearances without a walk. Oakland pitcher Ariel Prieto had been having control problems. Something had to give last night: Goodwin walked in the first inning, his first since July 13.

In the dugout: Orioles manager Phil Regan is already thinking ahead toward Monday's game against Seattle's Randy Johnson. Regan indicated that left-handed hitters Rafael Palmeiro and Harold Baines probably won't be in the lineup. Jeff Manto likely will play first, and left-handed hitting Jeff Huson may have to play at third.

In the clubhouse: "It's crazy. I felt like I was in such great shape. But you've got to understand that being in good condition and being in game condition are two different things . . . My arm got sore in spring training and I never could shake it. The tendinitis got worse and worse and worse." -- Ben McDonald, reflecting on his two-victory season.

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