Illness keeps Roberts out again vs. Jays

The Baltimore Sun

The words suggested that Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts could play yesterday. The pale coloring in his face and droopy eyes told a different story.

Soon after Roberts declared that he might return to the lineup, he slouched on a clubhouse sofa and gave in to the sickness that also caused him to miss Saturday's game.

The flu-like symptoms hadn't subsided enough for Roberts to return to the field, so Chris Gomez took over at second again, as he did the previous night, and Jay Payton batted leadoff in his first start with the Orioles.

"It still looks like he's a little under the weather," manager Sam Perlozzo said. "It's a day game after a night game. If it was a night game, he might have been able to go."

Roberts said he became ill late Friday night. "I woke up feeling terrible," he said.

Asked whether he'll be able to play tonight, when the Orioles begin a two-game series against the Oakland Athletics, Roberts said: "I hope so, yeah. At this point, I really don't have anything in me. I'm just weak. I still have some symptoms, so I'll try to get it out and let somebody healthy play."

Roberts showed up at Camden Yards on Saturday, but he left the ballpark before batting practice. Meanwhile, reliever Scott Williamson has been bothered by the same symptoms as the ones that forced Roberts to leave. He wasn't available to pitch Saturday night but worked a scoreless inning yesterday.

"I think they wanted to keep everybody away from each other. No need to make it worse around here," Roberts said.

"It was weird to sit at home and watch it on TV, but the guys played great and it was nice to watch us win."

Impressive debut

A strained left hamstring kept Payton on the disabled list until Friday, when he sat on the bench and waited for his chance to start.

It finally came yesterday, when he was 3-for-5 with two runs scored. He also provided the Orioles' first hit, leading off the fourth inning.

Being with a new team didn't make his first start any more memorable. Not when Payton has been around this long. "This is my sixth team, so for me, it's not that big of a deal. I'm pretty much used to it," he said.

"It's baseball, bottom line. It's the same game. They throw the ball, we hit the ball, we catch the ball. I just try to keep it simple."

Batting leadoff also wasn't viewed as a special treat.

"I'm just happy to be in the lineup," he said. "It doesn't matter if I'm batting first or batting ninth. I'm just happy to be out there."

Perlozzo said he chose Payton over Saturday's leadoff hitter, Corey Patterson, because the Orioles were facing a left-hander, the Toronto Blue Jays' Gustavo Chacin. And Payton was 4-for-8 lifetime against Chacin.

Blame it on the rain

Because he wasn't used in relief yesterday, Jeremy Guthrie is expected to make his first start with the Orioles tomorrow afternoon.

Weather permitting, of course.

Guthrie had his previous start, on April 15, washed away by rain, and the Orioles skipped his turn in the rotation. He would replace Jaret Wright, who remains on the DL with a sore right shoulder.

Brian Burres was another option, but he pitched the ninth inning yesterday and allowed two runs.

Hairy situation

Though careful not to violate the club's facial hair policy, the Orioles' relievers have decided to grow mustaches as another symbol of team unity.

They're definitely not going for fashion.

"You like it? It looks kind of trashy," John Parrish said.

The relievers got the idea from bullpen catcher Orlando Gomez, who has hair above his lip and some influence on the pitchers.

"It feels kind of funny," Parrish said. "I've never had one this long."

The look is spreading. Kevin Millar, Aubrey Huff and Jay Gibbons are among the position players who have decided to grow one.

The facial hair policy doesn't allow for mustaches to extend beyond the corners of the mouth.

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