Gibbons returns after 15 games


TORONTO -- After missing 15 games because of a slight tear of the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, Jay Gibbons returned to the Orioles' lineup last night as a designated hitter.

Gibbons acknowledged that he still feels some pain in the knee but described it as bearable. Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo said the club will likely rotate Gibbons between DH and the outfield for the next few games.

"I don't know if I'm going to feel it the rest of the year," said Gibbons, who went 2-for-5 with three strikeouts. "I don't know if I'm going to feel it for a month. I don't think it's going to be a big issue, but we'll see."

Gibbons, who was hurt when he hit the stands in foul territory trying to field Vladimir Guerrero's inside-the-park home run at Angel Stadium on May 26, said surgery won't be necessary unless he aggravates the injury.

"As it is now, it should repair itself and be OK," Gibbons said. "Hopefully, six weeks, something like that. It's been a while. I'm a little bit curious, because I've been taking batting practice every day, but no live pitching for 16 days. It should be coming at me a little bit quicker the first few at-bats, but I'll adjust."

To make room for Gibbons, the Orioles optioned infielder Ed Rogers to Triple-A Ottawa. Perlozzo had been leaning toward designating a pitcher - likely John Halama - and keeping an extra bat on the bench. But with four games here against the Toronto Blue Jays and then three against the New York Mets - two of the top offensive teams in the league - Perlozzo decided to keep a 13th pitcher.

"We feel like we might need the pitcher right now," Perlozzo said. "If something happens in New York where we think we need another position player, we can make a move at that point."

Perlozzo acknowledged that with Gibbons back and likely unable to be a full-time outfielder for the time being, finding consistent at-bats for Javy Lopez, who sat last night, Kevin Millar and Jeff Conine could be difficult. Conine could be the odd man out because he is nursing several injuries.

O's, No. 1 draft pick talk

The Orioles have started contract negotiations with their first-round draft pick, Billy Rowell, a high school infielder from New Jersey selected with the No. 9 overall pick last week.

Team officials don't expect the negotiations to drag as both sides have indicated a willingness to get a deal done. University of Texas outfielder Drew Stubbs, selected by the Reds at No. 8, is expected to sign for around $2 million, essentially setting the market for Rowell.

In his final high school game Saturday, Rowell was walked intentionally three times and hit a two-run homer in his only swing as Bishop Eustace beat St. Mary's of Rutherford, 14-2, for the New Jersey Non-Public B championship.

Feels like home

Hours before last night's game, Orioles pitcher Adam Loewen was running around the warning track at a quiet Rogers Centre. Loewen, 22, who opposes Toronto ace Roy Halladay tonight, grew up in British Columbia but hasn't pitched in this stadium since he was 18 as a member of the Canadian national team.

"I remembered watching the Blue Jays on TV when I was a young guy," he said. "Even though it's the complete other side of the country, it feels like home. It's got a lot of sentimental value for me. It's going to be exciting."

Around the horn

Perlozzo said he plans to stick with Melvin Mora in the third spot when Brandon Fahey is hitting second. ... Brian Roberts, who fouled a ball off his left foot Sunday, was favoring his left leg slightly and is still nursing a bruise on his thumb, but the second baseman told his manager he didn't want a day off. He hit a two-run triple in the third inning and singled in the three-run fourth. ... The Orioles have released Triple-A Ottawa infielder Alejandro Freire.

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