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For Gibbons, frustration rises as average falls

The Baltimore Sun

KANSAS CITY -- Jay Gibbons has been in plenty of slumps, but few have been as frustrating as his current one. No matter how much he struggled in the past, he still could hit a fastball.

But even that has become difficult, if not impossible for Gibbons, who has consistently been late on fastballs that he used to drive. On the home stand that just ended, Gibbons was 3-for-17 (.176). He is also only four for his last 28 (.143) with eight strikeouts.

"I am embarrassed," said Gibbons, whose average has dropped to .221. "I am just not performing. I know I am better than this. I expect to perform. They expect me to perform. And it's just not happening. I know it's [136 at-bats] in a 500 at-bat season. But it's time to start stepping it up. It's not for a lack of effort. I've been working at it, watching film, thinking a lot about it. But it's just not happening. It's frustrating and embarrassing, too."

Gibbons was not in the lineup last night against Kansas City Royals right-hander Scott Elarton, and manager Sam Perlozzo said that he likely won't start again tonight against left-hander Jorge De La Rosa. Gibbons complained earlier in the season when he was benched, indicating that he can't get out of a slump unless he is playing. But he said yesterday that he doesn't blame Perlozzo for keeping him out of the lineup.

"I don't have a problem with it at all," he said. "Right now, I am not producing and he's going to play the lineup that gives us the best chance to win. I don't blame him at all. I want to win, too, and right now I am not helping this team win."

Perlozzo and Gibbons had a long talk yesterday before batting practice. The manager said that he is concerned that Gibbons has been behind on so many fastballs.

"He needs to get on the fastball," Perlozzo said. "Guys are putting it by him right now, and we need to get that corrected."

Gibbons knows that, but he is running out of things to try.

"My mechanics are messed up and I am searching. I know I am pulling off everything," he said. "It feels like I am not seeing anything. I mean, I haven't struck out very often in the past. I am usually a guy that puts the ball in play. But I don't think I have swung and missed so many times in a year as I have these first two months. ...

"I've had it for a couple of games, but I still am getting beat on the fastballs. That's never happened in my career. Right now, I am at a loss. I guess I just have to keep swinging."

Walker returns home

Orioles reliever Jamie Walker will be away from the team until at least tomorrow's series finale here after his wife, Natalie, gave birth to a baby boy early yesterday morning. It is the Walkers' fourth child.

"Everyone is doing OK," Perlozzo said.

Walker flew to Kansas City on the team charter Sunday night, but returned to Baltimore early yesterday after his wife went into labor.

With Walker gone, Perlozzo said he is unsure who will pitch the eighth inning, but he didn't rule out the struggling Danys Baez being back in the role temporarily.

"Danys might get a shot at it again," Perlozzo said. "The rest of the bullpen has to pick up the slack right now."

Picking up the pace

With a season-high five stolen bases on Sunday against the Athletics, the Orioles moved into a tie with the Angels for the American League lead in steals with 41.

Brian Roberts entered last night leading the AL with 18 steals and added another one in the first inning yesterday, while Corey Patterson, who had three on Sunday, was tied for seventh with 11 stolen bases.

"I think my stolen base numbers have gone up the past couple of years," said Roberts, who had 36 steals last season, seven more than his previous career high. "I think stolen bases come in cycles, kind of like home runs. If you are on base a lot, swinging the bat well, then you are going to get a lot of chances to steal bases."

Roberts and Perlozzo acknowledged that the Orioles have been more aggressive lately, mostly out of necessity. Though, they hit three home runs on Sunday, the Orioles are 11th in the AL in that category, meaning that they've had to try to manufacture runs rather than relying on one swing.

"When we're not hitting the ball well, we need to get some of those guys on and create something to make things happen for us," said Perlozzo. "We need to use every resource we have to win ballgames."

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