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Millar laments bad rap for his first-base play

The Baltimore Sun

SEATTLE -- Kevin Millar first got the label during his first couple of seasons with the Florida Marlins, when one of his teammates was future star first baseman Derrek Lee. Millar played 94 games at first base for the Marlins in 1999 and 34 in 2000. But there were plenty of times when he would be removed later in the game in favor of a defensive replacement.

"Derrek Lee is one of the greatest first basemen that I've ever been around and I was a shorter, bad-bodied first baseman who was behind him," Millar said. "I think it started back then, but I believe it is an unfair label that I am a bad defensive first baseman. Outfield - with my speed, arm strength - no doubt about it. But I've never played a bad first base."

What started with Lee continued with David McCarty, Doug Mientkiewicz and John Olerud, all former Boston Red Sox who were used as late-inning defensive replacements for Millar. Even now, while team officials readily admit that Millar has been much better at first than their initial scouting reports indicated, he is frequently subbed out late in the game for Chris Gomez, a middle infielder for much of his career. Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo said that is no reflection on how Millar has played defensively.

"He's played pretty darn good for us," Perlozzo said. "He's going to have what range he has, but he catches the balls he gets to and he's made some great plays picking balls up and getting us out of jams. ... From what I can see, [the label of him being subpar defensively] is a little unwarranted."

Millar has started 23 games at first this season, six fewer than Aubrey Huff, and hasn't made an error yet.

Extra BP for Gibbons

Struggling outfielder Jay Gibbons took extra batting practice four hours before game time last night and was working on a new, open stance.

Gibbons, who has started only three of nine games on this road trip and likely won't start today against left-hander Jarrod Washburn, is hitless in his past 22 at-bats and is 4-for-38 over his past 12 games.

"I just don't have a direct path to the ball," he said. "That's why I've been getting beat by fastballs. So I opened up my stance a little bit. I did that in 2005 [and] it worked."

The Orioles are scheduled to face Colorado Rockies left-hander Jeff Francis on Friday, so it's possible Gibbons might not start again until Saturday, when the Orioles face former teammate Rodrigo Lopez.

Roberts to get day off

Perlozzo will give second baseman Brian Roberts this afternoon off, but he still hasn't decided what he'll do with shortstop Miguel Tejada. Perlozzo had wanted to use Tejada as the designated hitter today, but the shortstop told him he is feeling good.

Perlozzo usually allows Tejada, who played in his 1,139th consecutive game last night, to make the call on whether he wants to DH or play the field. If he decides to DH, Gomez and Freddie Bynum likely will start in the infield.

Roberts, the team's hottest hitter, is nursing a sore right hamstring, and Perlozzo said it is imperative to give him the day off.

"This is a guy that is playing injured for a couple of weeks and he's giving us everything he has," Perlozzo said. "He needs two days off, win, lose or draw."

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