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Mired in slump, Patterson sits on the bench

The Baltimore Sun

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- How much can you sacrifice for defense? It is a question Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo has had to struggle with recently as center fielder Corey Patterson falls into a bigger slump.

"You can't have everything," Perlozzo said. "It seems like you have good defense or no offense, or you try to get some offense and hope the defense doesn't come into play. That's part of the way it is."

Perlozzo sat the struggling Patterson last night, moving Jay Payton to center field and giving Jay Gibbons the start in left field, his second start in six games. The alignment clearly is not the Orioles' best defensively, as Patterson is the team's best defensive outfielder.

He has saved the Orioles several runs on this road trip, but he also has hurt the team at the plate recently. He is just 2-for-19 on the trip, his average dropping to .218, the lowest it has been since April 10, the second week of the season. Patterson acknowledged before last night's game that there have been times recently, including Friday night when he struck out twice, that he has gotten himself out.

"There have been times where pitchers have made really good pitches and there have been times I've hit balls hard right at people," he said. "I feel fine. I haven't gotten the results that I wanted, but the last thing you want is to let it get to you."

Patterson has especially struggled on the road. His .148 average away from Camden Yards is the lowest road average in the American League among qualifying players.

The 27-year-old, who will be eligible for free agency after this season, has been inconsistent for much of his career. However, team officials thought he'd be able to build off last season, when he hit .276 with 16 home runs, 53 RBIs and 45 steals.

It hasn't been the case. He has just one home run (on April 10), 16 RBIs (only one since May 18) and 11 steals. His on-base percentage is .275. But his stellar defense makes it a little easier for Perlozzo to overlook those things.

"I think he's trying so hard," Perlozzo said. "That's just what happens when you end up in a hitter's slump. He's swinging at an awful lot of balls and then when you do get your pitch, what happens is you miss it. That's what happens when you are pressing. It's baseball for 100 years."

Boras, Duquette talk

Yes, that is Orioles vice president Jim Duquette you have seen seated near agent Scott Boras behind the plate during this series. But before any speculation starts that the two are discussing Mount St. Joseph graduate Mark Teixeira, the Texas Rangers slugger and Boras client who is rumored to be on the trading block, Duquette said to think again.

"We were talking about a couple of his guys in the upcoming amateur draft," said Duquette, scoffing at the Teixeira speculation. "And he has very good seats and he was gracious enough to allow me to sit there for the whole game."

The Orioles will pick fifth in Thursday's draft and have interest in several players Boras represents. That list includes Matt Wieters, a catcher from Georgia Tech; Andrew Brackman, a pitcher from North Carolina State; Rick Porcello, a high school pitcher from New Jersey; and Mike Moustakas, a high school shortstop-third baseman from California.

Duquette called the perception that the Orioles won't do business with Boras untrue. "I have a good relationship with him and he also has a lot of respect for [executive vice president Mike Flanagan]," he said.

Getting on same page

Perlozzo said everyone was in agreement with his decision to intentionally walk Angels slugger Vladimir Guerrero on Friday night to load the bases for Gary Matthews Jr. with a 2-1 lead in the seventh inning. Matthews came through with a two-run single on Daniel Cabrera's first pitch to plate the winning run.

Perlozzo initially had ordered the intentional walk from the dugout, but Cabrera called the manager to the mound for a conference to make sure he understood the plan.

"We just said that we are going to put this guy on and let's go after the next guy hard," Perlozzo said. "Everyone was in agreement. We just didn't cash in on it."

Cabrera declined to comment after Friday's game on the need for the conference.

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