Leon throws himself into mix


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - If Jose Leon is sitting on the bubble, at least it won't pop anytime soon.

Regarded as a long shot to make the Orioles' 25-man roster, Leon's chances improved at least slightly after David Segui fractured his right thumb.

Without naming any players, manager Mike Hargrove said Segui's injury "may allow us to take the utility infielder who was on the bubble." That could mean Jeff Reboulet, who has fallen behind John Valentin. But it also doesn't eliminate Leon, who's hitting .435 after going 1-for-2 with a stolen base yesterday.

"He was in the mix, probably more so than what everybody thought," Hargrove said. "This opens up a spot for all of them."

Leon still is more likely to start the season as the third baseman at Triple-A Ottawa, but the Orioles are considering all of their options.

"When I go out there, I'll do my best and try to do everything right and stay here," said Leon, 26, who was acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals on July 31, 2000 for Will Clark.

"They haven't told me anything, but I know they have a lot of guys here who make good money. If I go back to Triple-A, I'll do my job and try to put up good numbers so when they need me, I'll be ready. I know I'm a better player than I was last year and two years ago."

Hale to miss season

Pitcher Beau Hale, the 14th overall pick in the 2000 draft, had arthroscopic surgery Wednesday to repair a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder and will miss the entire season. Dr. Walter Lowe performed the surgery in Houston.

Hale won't be cleared to throw for about four months. He'll rehab at the minor-league complex in Sarasota, Fla., and the Orioles are hopeful that he'll be ready for the 2004 season.

The club initially thought Hale had a torn labrum, which also would have kept him out all season. But the rotator cuff is more serious because of its importance in stabilizing the shoulder.

The Orioles also have lost pitchers Erik Bedard and Chris Smith for the season.

Daal struggles

The Orioles coveted a left-hander for their rotation, so they were ecstatic when they signed Omar Daal.

Now they need an effective one.

Daal struggled again yesterday against the Cincinnati Reds, allowing three runs - including a homer by Wily Mo Pena - and seven hits in four innings. Daal also gave up three runs and seven hits in his previous start, which covered three innings. The Minnesota Twins reached him for three runs and five hits in three relief innings.

For the spring, Daal has allowed nine earned runs in 12 innings for a 6.75 ERA. "You don't want to have too high expectations this early in camp," Hargrove said. "If this is still happening his last two outings, then we'll be concerned. But right now, I'm not concerned at all. He has good arm strength and he's got an idea."

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