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Palmeiro cleans up as 5th hitter in lineup


Lee Mazzilli's plan to reverse Rafael Palmeiro and Javy Lopez against left-handers in the Orioles' batting order expanded yesterday. He made the switch for the first time this season against a right-hander, Kansas City's Mike Wood.

Don't look for the Orioles' manager to stop anytime soon.

Lopez batted cleanup against Wood, with Palmeiro dropping to fifth. Lopez singled twice and scored on Palmeiro's two-run homer in the second inning, as the Orioles rolled past the Royals, 7-2.

Palmeiro, who also singled yesterday, was 19-for-105 (.181) before the switch. Lopez, meanwhile, has hit in 13 of his past 16 games, and 19 of 24. He's batting .373 in 24 games.

"Javy's swinging the bat well," Mazzilli said. "Just mixing it up and seeing where it takes us."

Palmeiro's homer gave him 1,133 extra-base hits, moving him past Tris Speaker for 10th place on the all-time list. He also passed Speaker for 13th place in total bases with 5,105.

Mazzilli indicated that he'll keep Miguel Tejada in the third slot.

Power launch

Palmeiro doesn't consider himself one of the favorites to finish first in tomorrow's home run competition that proceeds the All-Star Game in Houston. Not with such an impressive field.

"It makes it tough when you have guys like [Barry] Bonds and [Sammy] Sosa, but I'm not going there to try to win anything," he said. "I'm going there to have fun."

He's going as one of four active players with 500 or more homers, joining Bonds, Sosa and Ken Griffey.

"I would give anything to have my three days to relax [at home]. A lot of guys feel the same way I do," he said. "But it's a nice thing to be out there."

At least he won't have far to travel from his home in Colleyville, Texas.

And at least he's not worried about ruining his swing while trying to jack the ball over the fence.

"Hopefully," said Palmeiro, whose average climbed only to .247 with yesterday's two hits, "I'll find that swing that I'm looking for."

Resting Sir Sidney

Mazzilli remains unconcerned over Sidney Ponson's sore leg muscle, which caused him to miss yesterday's start.

"I just thought the timing was right to give him those extra days by him not pitching," Mazzilli said.

Mazzilli doesn't believe the soreness affected Ponson's performance last weekend in Philadelphia, when he lost for the 12th time in 15 decisions.

"For me, this is more like giving him a clear head going into the second half and not worrying about something that could be nagging," Mazzilli said. "Sometimes rest is the best medicine and you have to think this could be the thing that he needs."

In running to return

David Segui continues to run in the outfield and hit from both sides of the plate in batting practice while trying to hasten his return to the active roster.

Segui was moved to the 60-day disabled list last week to make room on the 40-man roster, but he's already eligible to come off after having surgery again on his left knee.

The Orioles are hopeful that he'll be ready by Aug. 1, but Segui seems intent on playing sooner.

"He's doing better than I would have hoped for at this point," head trainer Richie Bancells said. "I'm more optimistic than I was before he started running."

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