Positive step in Penn's first spring outing

The Baltimore Sun

JUPITER, FLA. -- Only once was Orioles pitcher Hayden Penn reminded about his sprained left ankle yesterday. His memory received a jolt, as did the ankle, when he threw a full-count curveball to the Florida Marlins' Joe Borchard in the fourth inning.

Borchard walked. So did Penn a short time later - back to the dugout, without a limp. And without allowing a run in his first appearance of the spring.

"I felt it give a little," he said, "but other than that, it was fine."

Finally cleared to pitch, Penn replaced starter Erik Bedard and went one inning in the Orioles' 2-2 tie with the Marlins. He loaded the bases on a one-out triple by Miguel Cabrera and walks to Josh Willingham and Borchard. Penn escaped the jam and kept the game scoreless by fielding Miguel Olivo's tapper to the mound.

"I actually felt pretty good. I made some good pitches," said Penn, who sprained his ankle last week after slipping on a bottom step at the team hotel.

"I'm glad I waited, because I didn't want to have it bothering me the whole time. Now, it's pretty much 100 percent. I'm not going to have anything hold me back."

Penn would have been allowed to return in the fifth inning if he had been more economical with his pitches in the fourth, when he threw 28 of them.

Cabrera's triple came on a fastball away. "It was a pretty good pitch," Penn said. "But it's Cabrera. You expect him to hit that."

Penn used all of his pitches, including one slider.

"I haven't been working on it, so I figured I may as well try it," he said. "It was in the dirt, but ... oh well."

Millar in left

Though he has spent most of his time this spring taking ground balls and accumulating starts at first base, Kevin Millar began yesterday's game in left field.

Manager Sam Perlozzo continues to evaluate players in left besides the obvious candidates to play there - Aubrey Huff and Jay Payton. He has also used Jay Gibbons there.

Yesterday was Millar's turn to play a position that was familiar during his years with the Boston Red Sox, but has been withheld from him since he signed with the Orioles. He caught one ball in four innings.

"We'll keep the option open," Perlozzo said. "I feel confident that Kevin can catch anything that he gets to. He's not going to have as much range as some of the other guys, but as far as catching the ball, I think he's fine with that. We just want everyone to be prepared to move around a little bit."

Majewski's shoulder 'fine'

Last spring, the Orioles seemed intent on converting Val Majewski into a first baseman or at least experimenting with him. Majewski took ground balls at first during workouts and later appeared in 11 games at the position with Triple-A Ottawa.

But Majewski said he has taken grounders at first only once this spring, in batting practice, and started Sunday's exhibition game in right field.

"Last year, there weren't as many first basemen in camp," he said. "This year, they've got a bunch of guys who can play there."

By using him more at first base last spring training, the Orioles were trying to reduce the strain on Majewski's surgically repaired left shoulder, which kept him on the disabled list for the entire 2005 season.

"The shoulder's fine now," he said. "It's just getting all the strength back. No matter what you do in the offseason, it's always a different strain on your entire body when you come down here. It's just getting all that early soreness out. Everything else feels pretty good."

Majewski said he doesn't care where he plays.

"First base is something I played in the past, so I'm not uncomfortable over there," he said. "I wouldn't mind anywhere I'm playing. Just being in the lineup and playing is always a positive. But down the road, if that's what they want me to do, whatever. I don't mind. Outfield, first base, I'm comfortable wherever."


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