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Hits that fall in help put spring in Roberts' step

The Baltimore Sun

Line drives settle into fielders' gloves when a hitter is slumping. For Brian Roberts, a looping ball that fell into center field yesterday must have felt like a 500-foot home run.

Roberts used a soft touch to deliver a run-scoring single in the third inning off Detroit Tigers starter Chad Durbin. He also reached on an infield hit in the fifth, using his speed to beat out a slow roller to the right side.

Considering that Roberts went 0-for-5 in Sunday's game at Yankee Stadium and was batting .136 in six games, he needed to catch a few breaks. And his single in the third inning, on a ball that probably wouldn't have broken glass, got him started in the right direction.

"You talk to players. Anything like that can ease your mind," Roberts said after the Orioles' 6-2 victory in their home opener. "When you're 1-for-2 instead of 0-for-2, it's a big difference. It just frees you up. You go up there and you feel a little more relaxed. Even though it's 20 at-bats, you start to think about it. You just want to hit. You want anything that will get you going.

"I felt fine. It's not like I've been flustered or anything. But little things like that, a lot of times it will get you going. If nothing else, you relax a little bit. You're able to get back in your whole routine, and you can focus a little bit better."

Durbin didn't establish any patterns with Roberts, which increased the challenge of hitting him.

"That was the hard part," Roberts said. "He used every pitch at a lot of different times. He threw a 3-2 changeup with nobody on base and nobody out, which you don't usually get in the leadoff spot. But we had some hits fall in that maybe shouldn't have."

Williamson ailing

Reliever Scott Williamson didn't pitch during the three-game series in New York because he has been sick, and he was checked by a team physician before yesterday's game.

"I'm not sure what it is," he said.

The Orioles used five relievers in the first game at Yankee Stadium, four in the second and four in the third. Williamson never got the call.

"He's probably going to get some work in this series, I would assume," manager Sam Perlozzo said. "He's been a little under the weather. We're hoping he's ready to go and he can help us out in this series."

Waiting on Payton

The calendar says outfielder Jay Payton can come off the disabled list tomorrow, but the Orioles aren't so sure.

Payton is continuing his recovery from a strained left hamstring. The move to the disabled list was retroactive to March 27, making him eligible to return tomorrow.

"I would hope that he would be ready, but we'll probably do the same thing with him as we're doing with Ramon [Hernandez]," Perlozzo said. "We want to make sure that [injury is] completely out of there before we get him back."

Wright goes again

Tonight's game will afford Jaret Wright the chance to lower his 15.43 ERA and give fans a more favorable impression after his disappointing debut.

Wright lasted only 2 1/3 innings in Wednesday's game in Minnesota, allowing six runs (four earned) and walking five in a 7-2 loss.

"I thought his arm slot was fairly decent," Perlozzo said. "I think the key for him is his arm speed needs to get a little quicker. If he can get his arm speed a little quicker, I think that'll make a difference for him."

Ripken partnership

Cal Ripken Jr. made an appearance at Camden Yards to throw out the ceremonial first pitch and promote a new collaboration between the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation and Major League Baseball's RBI program.

The partnership will expand the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program by 30 percent and provide nearly $1 million in equipment and cash grants for 60 cities.

The RBI program was founded in 1989 and annually provides as many as 120,000 boys and girls with the opportunity to play baseball and softball.

"Frankly, we couldn't ask for a better partner for the RBI program, and we're enormously honored," said MLB chief operating officer Bob DuPuy.

Said Ripken: "We're really excited about the possibilities that exist in our partnership. We all have a common vision to improve the game and to reach the kids. Baseball can impact positively in the direction of their lives."

Around the horn

Reliever Jamie Walker is still waiting to face his former team for the first time since signing a three-year, $12 million contract with the Orioles. "It could be my mom up there, and if I had to, I'd knock her on her [butt]," he said. "They're trying to take food off my table, and I'm going to try not to let them." ... Adam Loewen celebrated his 23rd birthday yesterday.

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