It didn't take long for center fielder Luis Matos to make an impact upon returning to the Orioles' lineup yesterday at Camden Yards.
Out since breaking his right ring finger trying to bunt May 10, Matos tripled to lead off the first inning and scored on Miguel Tejada's single, kick-starting the Orioles' 4-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies.
"It was good to start off ... to help out any way I can," said Matos, who was activated from the disabled list Saturday night after a five-game rehabilitation stint with Double-A Bowie. "It feels pretty good to be back with the team and the better thing is that we won."
Matos went 2-for-4, reaching on an infield single in the fifth and striking out twice.
"I'm just getting my feet wet with my at-bats," Matos said. "I know that my story is going to be the same - just to have the same approach and try to get on base as much as I can so that when the big guys come up, I can score for them."
Manager Lee Mazzilli said he was "very pleased" with Matos' hitting and excited to have him back in the lineup.
"We need him because he balances out our lineup," Mazzilli said of Matos, who was batting .289 with 12 RBIs before his injury. "We get his extra right-handed bat, so we're not cluttered up with left-handers in the middle of the lineup."
Newhan decision difficult
Mazzilli was clearly affected by the decision to option outfielder David Newhan to Triple-A Ottawa to make room on the roster for Matos.
His voice was downtrodden and deliberate when announcing the move after Saturday night's game. He then uncharacteristically cut short the media session, saying "We're done, all right, guys?" before getting up from his desk.
"It was very difficult," Mazzilli said yesterday. "[Newhan] had a tough time with it. The good guys are always hard. He was an important part of our team last year. He's going to be part of this team, but he needs to play. I didn't see him getting much playing time with [Larry] Bigbie back. I said to him last night, 'Never accept it, just understand it.' It's going to take him about a day or two, but he has to go down there and play."
Roberts gets a rest
Bothered by a stiff back for the past 10 days, Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts was held out of the starting lineup. He entered the game in the seventh inning and singled in his only at-bat.
The back problem is the same ailment that prompted Mazzilli to remove Roberts in the fifth inning Saturday night.
Mazzilli said he wanted to rest Roberts because the Orioles will start a four-game series on artificial turf in Toronto tonight and he wants his leadoff hitter to be ready.
"The kid wants to play every day, but I can tell that it's a nagging thing," Mazzilli said.
Orioles ties don't bind
Rockies relief pitcher Jay Witasick and second baseman Eddy Garabito didn't treat this series any differently even if they did once envision playing at Camden Yards in Orioles uniforms.
Witasick, a 10-year major league veteran who attended C. Milton Wright High and UMBC, signed a minor league deal and went to spring training with the Orioles before this season. He didn't make the 25-man roster, however, and opted to sign a minor league contract with the Rockies.
"I've never played for [the Orioles]," said Witasick, who has a 2.42 ERA in 22 appearances for Colorado. "Just because you go to spring training with them, that doesn't carry over. It didn't work out. That to me is long over. It was over as soon as we parted ways."
Garabito, who has been given a chance to start with Aaron Miles on the disabled list, was in the Orioles' organization from 1996 through 2004, playing the past four seasons for Triple-A Rochester and Ottawa. Not given a chance at the major league level, Garabito signed with Colorado and is hitting .395 in 16 games.
"[The Orioles] told me if I play hard, you are going to make it," said Garabito, who hit his first major league home run Saturday and had six hits and three RBIs in the series.
"I played hard for the Orioles and nothing happened, so I played hard for the Rockies and now this happens. I feel good because I've made it. It's something that I always wanted. I am happy [the Rockies] gave me the chance to be here."