Who's on first? J. Lopez fearfully says it's him, in mop-up role


Making his first pro appearance at first base, Orioles catcher Javy Lopez stood at his new position Monday night and hoped a ball wouldn't be hit to him.

A few batters into his debut, he hoped to get busy.

Lopez moved to first in the eighth inning of a 13-3 loss, as manager Lee Mazzilli emptied his bench and decided to experiment. It proved to be uneventful, with Lopez taking one throw to complete a double play that ended the ninth.

"It's hard to describe the feeling," he said before last night's game against the Detroit Tigers.

"I was kind of nervous that they would hit me a ground ball and I'd miss it and then I won't be able to see first base for the rest of my career."

Lopez takes ground balls at first during batting practice, but so far, the starts have gone to Jay Gibbons (eight), Rafael Palmeiro (four) and Chris Gomez (two).

"It's totally different there," he said. "I really enjoy it a lot, the fact that I don't have to wear any equipment and I don't have to squat. Just be around the base and wait for somebody to throw the ball to me.

"I feel like I've been playing there for quite a while. It feels comfortable to me. And the fact that the game was a blowout makes it a little easier, too."

Hendricks doing well

The reports on bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks continue to leave the Orioles encouraged.

Hendricks, who suffered a mild stroke after Thursday's game against Tampa Bay, remains in a St. Petersburg, Fla., hospital, but he could return home today or tomorrow.

Head trainer Richie Bancells, who rushed Hendricks to the hospital after detecting signs of a stroke, spoke with the longtime coach Monday night and said he was doing "really well."

Hendricks has been working with a speech therapist.

"He sounded great," Bancells said. "He's in good spirits. He's speaking clear as a bell."

Triple-A Ottawa pitching coach Steve McCatty continues to handle bullpen duties until Hendricks' return, which remains undetermined.

"He really hasn't said anything about that," Bancells said, "but I can only guess that, like any of us, he's anxious to get back to what he was doing."

Bauer struggling

Reliever Rick Bauer is off to a rough start, having permitted runs in all three appearances this season. His ERA has swelled to 13.50 in six innings, with nine runs and 13 hits allowed, and opponents are batting .464 against him.

His long relief duties require him to restore order after a starter gets roughed up, but it's proved to be a difficult task.

Bauer gave up a double, two-run single, single, run-scoring double and RBI single in the fourth inning after replacing Sidney Ponson at Tropicana Field. He allowed a run-scoring single to the first batter he faced Monday, and the Tigers scored four runs off him the next inning, two coming on Dmitri Young's homer.

Bauer worked one inning on April 6, and Oakland's Nick Swisher hit a two-run homer.

If the trend continues, Mazzilli might have to explore other options.

"Whoever I put in that spot needs to do that job," Mazzilli said. "With this team, it's an important role to keep the team where it is. Whoever I use in that spot's got to be able to do that."

Looking forward

Sammy Sosa no longer is part of the Chicago Cubs' family, and they're no longer deep in his thoughts.

Sosa said he hasn't kept track of his former team since coming to the Orioles in a trade. The Cubs were 6-7 before yesterday, two games behind the first-place St. Louis Cardinals, which came as news to Sosa.

"I'm too busy to look. I'm happy here," he said.

I. Rodriguez out

Tigers catcher Ivan Rodriguez wasn't in the lineup because of back stiffness.

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