Being benched far from a hit with Gibbons

The Baltimore Sun

WASHINGTON -- Jay Gibbons always had been a proponent of interleague play until last night, his opinion altered somewhat by how it affected the Orioles' lineup against the Washington Nationals.

Unlike past years, he wasn't in it.

Without the use of a designated hitter under National League rules, manager Sam Perlozzo chose to start Kevin Millar at first base and Jay Payton in left field. Gibbons and Aubrey Huff began the game on a five-man bench.

"I've always loved interleague until this year, I guess," Gibbons said with a smile. "Obviously I'd rather play than sit, and interleague is the reason I'm sitting. I still like it, though. I'm looking forward to San Diego and Arizona."

Millar homered in Wednesday's game, and Perlozzo wanted him in the lineup. He also preferred to have Payton covering ground in left.

"Kevin's been hitting the ball, he's been swinging the bat," Perlozzo said. "I went with Payton in left to start out. It's a big ballpark. They'll all get in the games somewhere. I don't want to leave anyone out."

Unheated rivalry

Despite attempts by some members of the local media, there doesn't appear to be much of a rivalry developing between the two teams. Their proximity means only that the trip for the Orioles was shorter.

"I would say it has a chance, but right now, it's just like an interleague game for us," Perlozzo said. "I think when they get their new stadium, things should pick up."

Said Gibbons: "I ain't feeling it yet. Maybe in their new ballpark there will be a little more atmosphere, but this isn't the nicest park in the world."

Failure to communicate

Two days after he exchanged heated words with first base coach Sam Mejias after a defeat in Toronto, utility player Freddie Bynum said the incident was behind them, and that he expected it to remain that way.

"We cleared the air," said Bynum, who was sent into the game in the ninth inning as a pinch runner. "We got everything straightened out. It was just a miscommunication. That's all. We talked about it. It's not too big at all."

The incident was magnified because it followed an angry exchange between Payton and Melvin Mora the previous night, though the Bynum-Mejias flare-up didn't match it in intensity or duration.

Bigger than baseball

A large contingent of Orioles that included Perlozzo, team executives and 11 players visited wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center before heading to RFK Stadium.

The experience clearly moved everyone involved.

"It puts a whole lot of life in perspective when you go over there," Perlozzo said. "They were thanking us for coming, wanting our autographs. When I got back on the bus I said, 'Holy cow, we're the ones who should have been asking for autographs.' Just an amazing group of young men. You think you have problems in your life. They made them easier.

"There are some brave, brave men in there. Amazingly, most of them can't wait to get well and go back. We were the ones who were extremely proud of them."

Players making the trip were Gibbons, Millar, Huff, Paul Bako, Brian Burres, Jeremy Guthrie, Nick Markakis, John Parrish, Chris Ray, Brian Roberts and Jamie Walker.

"I was a little nervous going, not knowing how to talk to them and stuff, but I'll tell you, basically we were the ones who just sat there listening to their stories," Huff said.

"As we're coming to the field, everyone was talking about how unimportant baseball seems sometimes when you look at something like that. It's amazing how positive all those kids were. I was thinking we were going to have to talk to them and cheer them up, but they were pretty chipper as it was. It's a whole new life that we don't know about.

"It puts in perspective what we do for a living. It's not even close to what they do.

"All those guys were younger than me. These kids are 19, 20 years old. It's unbelievable to me how positive they seemed."

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