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Rotation shift irks R. Lopez


NEW YORK -- An agitated Rodrigo Lopez declined to endorse the decision of Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo to push the right-hander's start back from tomorrow to Friday, saying yesterday that he's "not OK with it."

Perlozzo emphasized that he wasn't skipping Lopez. He said he just wanted to manipulate his rotation so Lopez, Erik Bedard, Daniel Cabrera and Kris Benson would each get four starts before the All-Star break.

"Basically, we just want to keep the guys in line," Perlozzo said. "Rodrigo's a couple days later, but then all those top four guys are going to get their four starts before the break, keeping Daniel and Erik and Benson straight."

Lopez said he wasn't sure why his day was the one switched.

"That's what he's there for, making a decision," he said of Perlozzo. "I guess I just have to deal with it."

Lopez has a 6.85 ERA but had pitched well in four straight games before allowing six runs in 3 2/3 innings on Wednesday in Toronto. He said he doesn't expect to lose his rhythm with the delay.

"They think it's the best thing," he said. "You know, again, I don't agree with it, but I'm just a part of the team. The only thing I can control, the only thing I can do about it, is get myself ready."

Hernandez sits

Sensing that his slumping catcher was pressing too much at the plate, Perlozzo kept Ramon Hernandez out of the Orioles' lineup yesterday for the first time since May 21. Hernandez, who is in a 0-for-16 slump, has played in 66 of the Orioles' 71 games.

"He's been going at it at a pretty good pace and grinding at it," Perlozzo said. "His offense has been suffering a little bit lately. It's a day game after a night game and a hot day. It's certainly not going to hurt him to freshen up two days and come back strong next week."

Markakis right at home

Rookie Nick Markakis has made significant improvements defensively since right fielder Jay Gibbons went down with an injury.

"He obviously reacts to the ball a lot better out in right," Perlozzo said. "Early on, it wasn't an option. He needed to play some other positions. I think he was getting better in left field as the season went on."

Markakis made a diving catch in shallow right field Saturday and has made several other nice plays recently.

"I am like any other player who has played a position pretty much your whole life," said Markakis, who has started 25 games in left field, seven in center and 19 in right. It's just one of the things where you've played the position so many times, you get better jumps, you know what the ball is going to do. I am just a little more comfortable out there."

Markakis, who played in front of 102 family members and friends Saturday, got the start against Tom Glavine yesterday, his first start against a left-hander since May 7 in Boston. He was 1-for-4 with a double.

Duquette enjoys weekend

Before Friday's series opener, Orioles vice president Jim Duquette was reminded just how long he was a part of the Mets organization. Attempting to stop at the Orioles' clubhouse, Duquette made a wrong turn inside Shea Stadium and wound up heading toward the home clubhouse. Before joining the Orioles in October 2005, Duquette was in the Mets' front office for 14 of the previous 15 years.

Duquette said he takes a lot of pride in the Mets' success this year, because he was part of the rebuilding process that has gotten them to this point. But he acknowledged that the Orioles' series win gave him some extra satisfaction.

"When you've been a part of their organization for so long, I've enjoyed the past two days," said Duquette before yesterday's game. "Not to rub it in or anything, but I enjoyed the celebration a little bit more."

Around the horn

Luis Matos was ejected in the fifth inning yesterday by home plate umpire Paul Schrieber for arguing a called third strike. ... The Orioles and Mets wore blue wristbands on Father's Day in support of prostate cancer awareness.

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