Preferring to keep rookie Luis Matos at his natural position, manager Mike Hargrove started Brady Anderson in right field last night against the Florida Marlins. The move will be repeated on occasion as long as Matos, a natural center fielder, remains with the club.
Anderson hadn't played right field since Aug. 5, 1994, in Milwaukee and had never appeared there at Camden Yards. He began taking fly balls in right during batting practice about five days ago to get acclimated to a position he has played 20 times since coming to the Orioles in 1988.
Anderson had served as the designated hitter or been rested when Matos played center and the opposing pitcher was a left-hander. Matos also moved to right three times this season when Albert Belle was used as the DH.
Hargrove checked with Anderson last week to see if he'd be comfortable in right, and spoke with him again yesterday.
"I said it was no big deal. Whatever. It doesn't bother me. I play wherever they put me," Anderson said before going 2-for-4 last night. "There are some fun aspects to it, I guess."
As he often does when pulling players out of their usual positions, Hargrove stressed that Anderson remains his regular center fielder and Belle his regular right fielder, and instructed reporters not to read anything into it.
"It just gives me a chance to give Albert a half-day off and keeps Brady's bat in the lineup," he said.
"Brady's very athletic and one of the toughest people I've been around mentally. If anybody can handle this and do well out there, it would be Brady."
Hargrove wants to get Matos in the lineup two or three times a week. He indicated yesterday that the rookie would remain in center because "it's easier for a young player to settle in if he's playing the position he's most comfortable in."
Anderson downplayed the challenges that would come from making the switch in midseason, at a ballpark where he only had played left and center. "Just go catch it," he said.
He also didn't interpret yesterday's lineup as an indication the club was considering a position change. In the past, Anderson has balked at suggestions from the likes of former manager Ray Miller that he would be more effective in left.
"If we were in the pennant race, it probably wouldn't be happening," he said. "It's not like we don't believe we can get back into it, but when we're struggling to play .500 ball, some guys in the minors are going to get a look. It's happened the last couple years. It never would have happened in '96 or '97.
"I hope he does well. No other player really threatens me like that, especially a teammate."
Red-hot DeShields sits
Hargrove started Mark Lewis at second base over Delino DeShields, sitting a player with two homers and six RBIs in his past two games.
The move came with a left-hander on the mound, Florida's Jesus Sanchez, and gave Hargrove an extra right-handed bat in the lineup. But matchups weren't the only consideration.
By removing DeShields from the field last night, Hargrove was hoping to keep him on it longer.
Until recently, DeShields had been hindered by spasms between his right shoulder and neck, making it difficult to move his head, let alone play baseball.
"A healthy Delino DeShields is a very, very good offensive player," Hargrove said. "We'll try to keep him as healthy as we can."
Mercedes still sore
Pitcher Jose Mercedes continues to experience some tightness in his left side that cropped up in the first inning of Monday's start against the Marlins and peaked in the third, when he sought out trainer Richie Bancells after allowing three runs.
Mercedes received more treatment yesterday and expressed some concern that the discomfort hadn't subsided. Coming off his first victory since June 28, Mercedes is scheduled to pitch again Saturday in Toronto.
"It's still a little sore," he said. "I will do my best to not let it affect me. I don't want to miss anything."
Catchers boxed in
The umpires for this three-game series have been adamant in enforcing the rule that the catchers must remain in the box behind the plate. They even had the grounds crew lay down new white lines twice during Monday's game.
"That's the first time I've seen anyone do that," said the Orioles' Charles Johnson, who was warned by plate umpire Angel Hernandez about his foot moving outside the designated area.
The timing could have been a little better for the Orioles, who complained last week about the Atlanta Braves getting strikes off the plate, in part because catcher Javy Lopez sets up farther outside than permitted.
Around the horn
The Orioles wives collected 8,337 pounds of food and $9,632 over the weekend, with all proceeds benefiting the Maryland Food Bank. ... Cliff Floyd recorded the Marlins' major-league-high 103rd steal in the fifth inning.