Javy Lopez measured his words carefully, not wanting to anger any Orioles officials, though clearly frustrated by his current situation.
Lopez, who had missed seven straight games with a mid-back strain, feels that he is close to being ready to play, but now he won't be eligible to return to the Orioles' lineup until next Saturday. The Orioles placed him on the 15-day disabled list yesterday to make room for Luis Matos, who is returning from right shoulder inflammation.
"The way I feel, I should be playing any time soon, but they are concerned," Lopez said. "I can totally understand that they don't want to see me getting hurt again. But at the same time, I want to play. It's just hard. It's just hard to be a DH, it's harder to be not even playing. It's something that I have to agree with what their decision is."
Yesterday's news was the latest blow to Lopez's 2006 season, as he has struggled at the plate - he is hitting .221 with a home run and eight RBIs and doesn't have a hit in his last 14 at-bats - and in adjusting to his new role. Lopez's struggles in the field this spring led to Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo ending the displaced catcher's experiment at first base and making him the team's designated hitter.
Perlozzo said yesterday that Lopez likely won't play first base until his hitting improved. And that won't happen until he is healthy again. Back pain has kept Lopez from swinging as hard as he'd like in batting practice.
"Even though he is feeling pretty good, I think those things linger, and if you don't get rid of them all the way, you risk the chance of being out a long time," Perlozzo said. "In this particular case, we want to be cautious with him and make sure we get him back."
Said Lopez: "I am going to focus on getting my season straightened out."
Perlozzo wouldn't commit on how he'll use Matos, who went 3-for-9 with a home run and 2 RBIs on a rehab assignment with Single-A Frederick. Matos' shoulder, which he injured sliding into second on Opening Day, is still not 100 percent.
Chen could be skipped
With the Orioles having a day off on Monday, Perlozzo said that he is considering skipping struggling starter Bruce Chen's spot in the rotation on Wednesday, possibly giving him more time to work out his problems in side sessions with pitching coach Leo Mazzone. The Orioles won't technically need a fifth starter again until next Saturday against the Kansas City Royals.
"We talked about it a little bit," Perlozzo said. "We haven't come to any conclusion. I hate to lose Bruce and any confidence that we have in him because we certainly need him. I'll probably end up sitting down with Bruce and talking over some things. Maybe at the end of the conversation, we'll take about whether we want to give him a blow or keep rolling with it."
Triple-A Ottawa pitcher Hayden Penn, the most likely replacement for Chen in the rotation if he continues to falter, would also be on schedule to pitch next Saturday for the Lynx. Chen has gone a full five innings in just one of his past four outings and has an 8.40 ERA.
Millar gets Fenway welcome
Kevin Millar's Boston homecoming officially got underway yesterday afternoon when his close friend, Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, picked him up at the Orioles' team hotel in his white Hummer and drove him to the ballpark. A song from the rock group Creed, one of Millar's favorites, was blaring in Ortiz's car.
When Millar walked into the Orioles' dugout, about 25 members of the Boston media were waiting for him. "Holy cow," Millar said when he caught a glimpse of the assembled throng. "I'm hitting. 203 with two bombs and 10 RBIs. I'm off to another hot start."
Millar got a standing ovation when he came to bat in the second inning, but then was booed after hitting a single off Curt Schilling. He finished 2-for-3.
Around the horn
Perlozzo said that rookie Brandon Fahey and Chris Gomez will probably platoon at second base until Brian Roberts is ready. ... Catcher Eli Whiteside cleared waivers and was optioned to Triple-A Ottawa.