Left-handers aren't fooling O's bats in '07

The Baltimore Sun

BOSTON -- The Orioles are scheduled to face Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett and A.J. Burnett over the next five days, but they are not scheduled to face a left-handed starter during that stretch. In past seasons, that would have been good news for the Orioles, but that's not necessarily the case this year.

After beating Tampa Bay Devil Rays starter Casey Fossum on Thursday, the Orioles improved their record to 6-7 in games started by an opposing left-hander, and the record is slightly misleading considering that the Orioles pounded New York Yankees left-hander Kei Igawa, but saw their bullpen blow a big lead.

They are also hitting .267 as a team against left-handers, seven points higher than their average against right-handers entering last night. The statistics aren't overwhelming, but they are certainly good signs for a team that was last in the league with a .258 average against left-handers in 2006 and was just 16-33 in games started by an opposing left-hander.

"There is always room for improvement, but I think Corey [Patterson] has definitely done a better job hanging in and handling a different assortment of pitches," hitting coach Terry Crowley said. "The addition of [Jay] Payton helps us, and Aubrey Huff hits well against lefties. With a more balanced lineup, it gives us a chance to get after some lefties."

Patterson hit just.207 against left-handers last year but is batting .297 against them this season. Though it is only in 19 at-bats, Jay Gibbons is hitting .368 against left-handers compared with .246 last year. Oddly, the two hitters the Orioles acquired to help bolster their offense against left-handers, Payton and Huff, are hitting .217 and .256 against them, respectively.

"Hopefully last year was more of a fluke than anything because we have some better players," Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo said. "Hopefully that trend will change on us."

No changes on Wright

Orioles vice president Jim Duquette wasn't aware of the comments made by Clyde Wright, who told a Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter in the Angel Stadium press box Thursday that his son Jaret's career might be over because of his latest shoulder problems.

Jaret Wright is in California rehabilitating the ailing shoulder that forced him out of his last start for the Orioles on April 29. Duquette said that though Wright is out for the foreseeable future, he has been given no indication that the injury is either career- or season-ending.

"Our thought process was we would see him again at some point this year," Duquette said. "We weren't thinking this injury was season-ending. That's not what was relayed to us by the doctors."

Duquette said Wright has been working with a group associated with Dr. Lewis Yocum, the Los Angeles Angels' team physician who performed two earlier surgeries on the pitcher's shoulder. At some point, Wright is expected to return to Baltimore and check in with the club.

"He hasn't verbalized that to me if he is feeling that way," Duquette said. "If that's what his dad is saying, it's a natural reaction for a guy that has done his share of rehabbing over the course of his career. We were optimistic after Yocum saying what he said."

Williamson ready

The Orioles are planning to activate reliever Scott Williamson from the disabled list today, a move that will likely result in Jon Leicester being optioned to Triple-A Norfolk. Williamson, who has been out with tightness in his right triceps, is ready to pitch, but Perlozzo wanted to keep Leicester through last night to help if Brian Burres was knocked out of the game early.

"He threw 50 pitches in a rehab, and then he came back and threw three extended side sessions," Duquette said. "From our standpoint, we want to make sure we get through tonight."

Draft news

Duquette said he is planning to go to the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament to scout several prospects who could be available when the Orioles pick fifth in the amateur draft. Duquette and executive vice president Mike Flanagan have already seen Georgia Tech catcher Matt Wieters and North Carolina State pitcher Andrew Brackman, and they want to see four or five more prospects.


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