Making his return to the Orioles' lineup for the first time in four days was apparently not enough to temper Jay Gibbons' emotions. In an interview before last night's series opener with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, an agitated Gibbons expressed frustration over his decreased role with the team, saying he doesn't understand his recent lack of playing time.
"I've thought about it, and I can't even find an excuse why I haven't been in the lineup three days in a row or four out of the last five," Gibbons said. "Yeah, I am in a slump. I've been in a 30-plus at-bat slump, but now you are spreading that out over three weeks and not playing me is prolonging it.
"Now, if I don't get a hit [last night], it's like, 'Here we go.' I just think it is the wrong way to go about it. I am one year in on a four-year contract, and this is not what I signed up for. It seems like an audition sometimes. You have a good game, you get another game. If you don't, you are out. It's really hard to play like that."
Gibbons had no trouble last night, starting at designated hitter and going 3-for-4 with a single, a double and a homer. He also was robbed of an RBI single on a leaping catch by Devil Rays shortstop Brendan Harris in the third inning.
Gibbons said he recognizes that if he were swinging the bat better, he'd most likely be in manager Sam Perlozzo's everyday lineup. But Gibbons, 30, who is in the middle of a four-year, $21.1 million deal, is hitting .213 and took a 3-for-37 slump into last night's game. It was the third start in the past seven games for a player who started 14 of the first 17 games.
When told he may not get much sympathy because of his recent struggles, Gibbons said he was fine with that.
"You have to understand that [it] is over 30 at-bats. I've missed out on about 40 at-bats. I haven't had an at-bat since Friday night," he said. "It is a little tough right now, especially since you've been an everyday player your whole career.
"I am not a confrontational person. I keep to myself. I don't want to disturb anything, but when I feel like something is wrong and I am confused, I am going to say something.
"I just don't know my role. Am I a bench player now because I slumped for 30 at-bats? I know there was a reason they signed me to a four-year deal. I know when I am healthy, I can hit 20 homers plus every year. Well, I am healthy right now."
Kevin Millar, who has been platooning with Gibbons at designated hitter since left fielder Jay Payton returned from the disabled list, acknowledged last week he was getting frustrated because he wasn't sure of his role, though his comments were far more reserved.
As a left-handed hitter whose best power numbers come against right-handed pitchers, Gibbons said he accepts that he may not start against certain left-handed pitchers. But he was particularly annoyed Monday when he wasn't in the lineup for the third straight day with right-hander Fausto Carmona on the mound for the Cleveland Indians.
"I've slumped many times, but in the past, if I wasn't swinging well, it's 'Go out there and swing your way out of it,'" Gibbons said. "[Brian Roberts] was hitting .180 2 1/2 , three weeks into the season. What did he do? He swung his way out of it. It's just weird the way it is being handled, and I am frustrated. I don't feel like there is any way I should be out of the lineup against a right-hander.
"I absolutely think there are different ways to rotate the lineup. I am not the manager. But he is taking the approach that obviously it's either me or Kevin, and I don't think that's right. Kevin and I are more versatile than that. We can play other positions. I am rooting for the team no matter what, but it's getting frustrating to watch."
Gibbons said he discussed his role with Perlozzo "a few days ago" and was told, 'You are one of my guys. You are one of my starters.'
"I've had five at-bats since last Wednesday," he said. "I told him I need to play to break out of a slump. You can't get your timing down sitting in the dugout. Batting practice is great. Extra hitting is great. But the only time you are going to get better is going out on the field. It sure seems like it's been stretched out for no reason. I try to be understanding, but three in a row, four out of five, nine out of 18 or whatever. Come on."
Perlozzo said yesterday he was confident Gibbons would get his swing back, but he was committed to putting the guys out there that were swinging the bat the best.
"There's a lot of season left, and we certainly expect Gibby to be a positive contributor for us," Perlozzo said. "We did all along."