Hairston stays in lineup despite slump


With runs continuing to be scarce and quality starts going to waste, Orioles manager Mike Hargrove kept one slumping player in his lineup last night and returned another to the bench.

Jerry Hairston remained in the second slot despite entering the game without a hit in his last 23 at-bats. But Karim Garcia, the designated hitter in three games since being brought up when rosters expanded, was bypassed again for reserve catcher Greg Myers.

As if wearing a bull's-eye, key situations seem to find Hairston. On Sunday, he lined into a double play to end the third, grounded out to strand two runners in the fifth, struck out after a leadoff walk in the eighth and grounded out to strand two more in the ninth. The Orioles lost to Seattle, 3-2, to complete a sweep and put them a season-worst 17 games below .500.

"Jerry's swinging the bat well," Hargrove said. "He's in a little bit of a slump right now but he's hitting the ball hard. The ball he hit for the last out of the game, he hit it hard, right at [Alex] Rodriguez.

"There are times that Jerry gets a little flat-footed on his throws to first base that causes him to be a little erratic," Hargrove continued. "I'd like to see him be a little more consistent in not doing that. But as a whole, Jerry does a good job."

Hairston ended the drought in the first inning last night, lining a single into center field and coming around on Delino DeShields' home run off Oakland's Kevin Appier.

Garcia hit 28 homers and drove in 92 runs at Triple-A this season. Left off the 40-man roster, he stayed at Rochester until September. His stroke remains there.

Once a top prospect in the Los Angeles Dodgers' system, Garcia is 0-for-14 with five strikeouts.

"I think he's really pressing," Hargrove said. "You can try too hard and that's where he's at right now. Everything he swings at, he's pulling his head up and coming off the pitch. That's really counter-productive.

"I've talked to him about relaxing. He needs to do that and just be who he's going to be and not try to force the issue. But saying it and doing it are two different things."

Silence surrounds Belle

Albert Belle's status remains a mystery.

Belle apparently is seeking outside medical opinions on his right hip, which has forced him to miss 14 straight games. The club has said only that Belle's hip is inflamed.

Syd Thrift, the Orioles' vice president of baseball operations, confirmed that he's seen the results of a Sept. 6 examination by team orthopedists Dr. Michael Jacobs and Dr. Charles Silberstein. He declined to give more information until the other exams are completed.

Thrift also wouldn't speculate on whether Belle might be shut down for the remainder of the season. "I can't answer that," he said. "I don't know."

Around the horn

Left-hander Chuck McElroy will make his first major-league start in Game 2 of tonight's doubleheader. Rookie Luis Rivera will pitch in relief, making his Orioles debut. McElroy, 32, started three games at Triple-A Indianapolis in 1996 ... Jeff Conine missed his sixth straight game because of a strained ligament behind his left ankle. There's been improvement, but not enough to return his bat to a punchless lineup ... Hargrove met with Jesus Garcia in the afternoon and said he wanted to get the infielder into some games over the last two weeks, though not necessarily at shortstop ... A decision on whether Mike Mussina makes Friday's start in Boston might not come until Thursday. He continues to receive treatment for a strained groin muscle ... Oakland's Jason Giambi broke Jose Canseco's club record for RBIs in a season with his 125th. ... DH Matt Stairs was the only A's starter not to get a hit off Pat Rapp.

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