Stuck in slowdown mode, Sosa hopes single gets him going again


ATLANTA - One strike away from another failed at-bat yesterday, Sammy Sosa lined a single into center field off Atlanta Braves reliever Blaine Boyer. It didn't warrant a hop out of the batter's box or some other flashy gesture. Sosa no doubt was content with running to first base - anything to avoid another U-turn toward the Orioles' dugout.

A 1-for-3 day that included two walks left Sosa's average at .243. He struck out at least once in 11 straight games until yesterday, and is 3-for-27 in his past seven games.

Sosa flied to right in the second, grounded to short in the fourth and fell behind 0-2 in the seventh before singling. He walked in his last two plate appearances.

Sosa missed a home run by a few inches Friday, with left fielder Kelly Johnson pressing his bare hand against the fence while making the catch.

"He's trying too hard, I think," Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli said of Sosa, who last homered June 18 to tie Mark McGwire for sixth place on the all-time list with 583.

"Sometimes you've got to just let it go. That's just human nature. Sometimes you try too hard."

Mazzilli said he doesn't have plans to lower Sosa, who has batted fourth and fifth exclusively this season.

It's a touchy subject when dealing with an all-but-certain Hall of Famer, and it could affect how Mazzilli handles the situation.

"I think that has some validity to it," Mazzilli said. "But someone with that track record, chances are he's going to find his way real quick."

Sosa could find the bench today. He's 4-for-38 with 18 strikeouts lifetime against Braves starter John Smoltz.

Mora won't play today

Melvin Mora ruled himself out for today's game against the Braves, and he won't know his availability for the series against the New York Yankees at Camden Yards until attempting to run tomorrow.

Mora is taking live batting practice, but his strained hamstring won't be tested until he runs. He hasn't played since Tuesday.

"It feels fine, but running is the problem," he said. "I was just waiting for the pain to go away. As soon as it does, I'll try it.

"I don't want to go rushing it and miss six weeks, but it's tough, especially when you're losing games. That's frustrating."

Mazzilli said the Orioles won't put Mora on the disabled list.

Bedard still not ready

Still not ready to throw off a mound, left-hander Erik Bedard can't project when he'll return from a sprained knee ligament. And if he isn't sure, neither is the club.

Bedard said the knee is "way better," because he can bend it and move it from side to side without pain. He can do everything except throw off a mound, the most important test.

"He's getting better every day, but I don't know where we stand with that," Mazzilli said. "I think it's always up to every player where you're at."

Bedard has been on the disabled list for exactly one month. The original projections had him missing two weeks.

"It's more frustrating than anything else," he said. "When the doctor said two weeks, I thought it wasn't that bad. But after that, it wasn't even close to better than the initial injury. It's just taking awhile to come back. I want to get out there and help the team, and when you can't do anything about it, it's hard."

Plan for Grimsley

Once Jason Grimsley is activated from the 60-day disabled list after a rehabilitation assignment at Double-A Bowie that begins today, Mazzilli must decide how the reliever fits into a bullpen that includes right-handers Jorge Julio, Steve Reed, Todd Williams, James Baldwin and rookie Chris Ray.

"I think we'd be jumping ahead of ourselves by doing that now," Mazzilli said.

Reed put together six consecutive scoreless appearances before allowing four runs and five hits in one inning of Monday's loss in Toronto. Signed to a one-year contract, he's 1-2 with a 6.26 ERA in 26 games.

Julio remains a prime bargaining chip for the Orioles, who could move him in a trade for a starting pitcher. Grimsley's assignment with Bowie could be over in two weeks. Pitching coach Ray Miller is targeting five innings over five appearances that could be stretched over 10-12 days.

Asked what he wants to see during that time, Grimsley said: "Hitters. I want to face hitters. I want to get those juices flowing again, in a game situation."

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