Brook Fordyce hadn't gotten more than halfway to second base last night when he began clapping his hands. A balk was called on Kansas City starter Jeremy Affeldt, allowing the Orioles' catcher to advance safely rather than be tagged out.
Or maybe Fordyce was just excited to be running the bases, freed at last from the shackles of a slump that nearly had cut off his circulation, and proving that he didn't need to stop for directions.
Making his fourth consecutive start, Fordyce dragged along an .034 average that should have been light enough to carry with one hand - matching the number of hits he's gotten this season. By going 0-for-2, Fordyce lowered his average two more points, but he also juiced an eighth-inning rally in the Orioles' 4-3 victory.
Fordyce walked in the second inning before grounding out twice to the left side. Retired in the sixth, he seethed in the dugout while strapping on his gear. But after a leadoff double by Mike Bordick in the eighth, Fordyce laid down a sacrifice bunt on a 1-0 pitch that became more crucial when rookie catcher Juan Brito was charged with a passed ball that broke a 3-3 tie.
"It should be an easy thing to do," Fordyce said. "The first pitch happened to be right at me, and you get a little weak-kneed in there. But I always thought bunting should be easy, and it's part of my game."
With Geronimo Gil nursing a strained left groin and right hamstring, Fordyce has reclaimed the starting job he held at the beginning of last season. The Orioles called up Izzy Molina from Triple-A Rochester yesterday, with the possibility of using him this weekend if Gil remains out. Otherwise, they'll continue to lean on Fordyce, who never imagined that last season's .209 average would look so appealing.
"Any time you don't play regularly, it's a tough row to hoe. It really is," said manager Mike Hargrove. "You have to do extra things and work harder than the guys playing regularly. Brook does all those things. The at-bats are going to come every now and then, and it's hard to get anything going and establish anything.
"I think it's just a matter of him getting his timing down, things like that. I think the more at-bats we give him, the better he'll be. But right now he's pressing."
He was pushing for a starting job this spring. Fordyce led the club with a .381 average, but Hargrove put more emphasis on defense by choosing the strong-armed Gil. Fordyce started once in the first eight games, twice in the first 14, and never heated up.
"No excuses," he said. "Whether it's an easy situation for me or a difficult one, I should get the job done."
Fordyce's first contribution last night, with none out in the fifth inning, won't show up in the box score. He took a throw from Jerry Hairston that drifted to the first-base side of the plate, lunged toward Brito and made the sweep tag to prevent the Royals from building on a 2-1 lead. The Orioles scored the tying run in the bottom half.