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Lopez adds O's MVP to unlikely rookie season


Though he might fall short in the voting for top American League rookie, Orioles pitcher Rodrigo Lopez is assured of taking one award back to his home in Mexico City.

A minor-league free agent who became staff ace, Lopez has been named Most Valuable Oriole by members of the media. Lopez was the only player named on all 28 ballots. Third baseman Tony Batista finished second, and left-handed reliever Buddy Groom was third.

Lopez went 15-9 to lead the club in victories and posted a 3.57 ERA in 33 appearances. He tied Mike Boddicker for the third-most wins by an Orioles rookie. He also was 8-4 in 13 starts after a loss.

"I've had a lot of surprises this year, and this is one more," said Lopez, 26, who joined former closer Gregg Olson as the only rookies to win the award in 48 years.

By going 2-5 down the stretch, Lopez probably will finish behind Toronto's Eric Hinske for AL Rookie of the Year. He leads first-year players in wins, ERA, strikeouts (136) and innings (196 2/3 ). Lopez went 6-0 with a 2.57 ERA in July to earn the league's Rookie of the Month award.

"I can't wait to see him back here next year and continue to develop because he's got great stuff," manager Mike Hargrove said. "He's a very good find for us."

The Sports Boosters of Maryland will present Lopez with the award at its annual banquet on Nov. 6 at the Marriott Waterfront Hotel.

Farewell for Bordick?

Mike Bordick slipped on his uniform jersey yesterday, as he's done so often with the Orioles. It will take a few weeks and a family consultation before he's sure whether he'll wear it again.

Bordick's contract has expired and he's contemplating retirement to spend more time with his family. He set the major-league record for most consecutive errorless games and chances this season, and batted .232 after going 1-for-3 in yesterday's 6-1 loss to the New York Yankees.

"I approach every game, and I think a lot of guys do, like it's their last," he said. "You've got to go out there and play as hard as you can every night. And there's always an emotional aspect to the last day of the season because you start out at spring training and guys have been together for eight months."

The Orioles haven't revealed their intentions with Bordick, but it's apparent Hargrove wants the club to retain him for another season. Their top shortstop prospect, Ed Rogers, didn't advance beyond Double-A this year.

Bordick, in turn, has indicated that he will only play for the Orioles.

"I was really lucky to have the opportunity to come back here a few years ago," he said. "My family's really settled here and enjoys the community, the kids are in school and we really like Baltimore. I think it would be a lot harder on them if I went and played somewhere else.

"I don't know when I'm going to make the decision. I'm going to take the next few weeks and talk things over. It's a little hard during the season. I'll talk with my family about it. There are a lot of things I have to sort out."

Bordick's wife, Monica, is expecting their fifth child. They have a daughter and three sons, including 7-year-old twins Dylan and Casey, and he's feeling the tug from home.

"Definitely," he said. "My kids are getting older. It's hard enough just on my wife. She's been with me since Day One. And with my kids getting older, they're able to show their emotions a little bit. It certainly pulls at the heart strings."

By leaving in the ninth inning yesterday, Bordick finished his season - and perhaps his career - with 110 straight errorless games and 543 consecutive errorless chances.

Put me in coach

Jerry Hairston went into Hargrove's office before Saturday's game and begged the manager to let him play. Hargrove decided to give Hairston's injured groin muscle one more day to heal before returning him to the lineup for yesterday's finale.

"I wanted to be out there," Hairston said.

He might be on top of the order next season. Hargrove will give him another chance in spring training to be the club's leadoff hitter - an experiment that initially failed this year before Hairston regained the job.

"I'm starting to find out what I can do," said Hairston, who was 1-for-4 yesterday to finish the season hitting .268. "I don't have to be a leadoff hitter. The biggest thing is I want to win. Next year, if they bring in a guy who's the best leadoff hitter in the world, I'll be happy. I just want to have a chance to win. It doesn't matter where I am."

Around the horn

The 24 losses in September were the most for the Orioles in a single month since they lost a franchise-record 25 in August 1954. ... Jay Gibbons' double in the sixth inning was the Orioles' club-record 311th this season. ... A crowd of 46,443 left the Orioles' season attendance at 2,682,917, the lowest total for a full season in the 11-year history of Camden Yards.

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