At a loss, O's players to talk it over

The Baltimore Sun

The usual comedic routine was missing from Kevin Millar's act yesterday. He was nothing but serious, an appropriate tone when a team has lost 13 of its past 15 games and its manager must read about his job security almost on a daily basis. Better to hold the laughter.

After a 6-4 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks at Camden Yards that completed another sweep and dropped the Orioles a season-worst 11 games below .500, fueling more speculation that manager Sam Perlozzo could be fired this week, Millar chastised reporters for being too jovial in an otherwise-quiet clubhouse and revealed his plans to call a players-only meeting tomorrow in San Diego.

If the Orioles need to hear a different voice, one that doesn't belong to Perlozzo, Millar will provide it. Just don't expect the humor that so often flows from him.

"Just because you have a team meeting doesn't mean you go out and win 20 in a row," he said. "We might get our butts beat. But we'll have a team meeting, players only, and bring this thing back to basics."

Asked who would lead the meeting, Millar said: "Me. Kevin Millar will lead that meeting. I'll call the meeting on Tuesday. That's who's going to lead the meeting."

The Orioles, who have lost eight in a row, won't fly to the West Coast until later today, and Perlozzo's job remains a hot-button topic. The front office continues to say nothing has changed regarding his status, though the decision lies with owner Peter Angelos.

The next 24 hours could be an anxious time for Perlozzo.

"It doesn't matter how good I think I did or how many of the right guys I bring in when everything you do that's right turns wrong," Perlozzo said. "There will come a point and time when it just won't matter. I understand that. Hopefully, it's not real close, but it could get close."

Meanwhile, Perlozzo said he was "fine" with the players conducting a meeting without him.

"We have a good bunch of guys. They battle their [butts] off out there," he said. "Sometimes, it's better that someone else speaks up. I'm trying not to kick them in the [butts] and yell at them. I'm trying to stay positive. They need you when they're going bad more than when they're going good."

Always a favorite of the media for his accessibility and one-liners, Millar vented when he noticed a few reporters joking around while players ate dinner in silence and dressed at their lockers.

"Next time you guys come in here after a team's lost, let's try not to have a party. Have respect for the guys who have battled out there for three hours. Just a common courtesy," said Miller, who also was fuming after striking out as a pinch hitter in the ninth with two runners in scoring position.

"I know this isn't a big media market, but common courtesy when a team's struggled this long. Chill out a little bit. Show respect for the other players."

The mood might be slow to change with the Orioles scheduled to face the Padres' Jake Peavy, who's 8-1 with a 1.82 ERA, in tomorrow's series opener.

"We've got to find a way to get a W," Millar said. "We've got to find a way to get a big hit, we've got to find a way to score more than the other team, whether it's 1-0 or 25-24.

"We're confident. We're in the big leagues. The problem is, we're getting our [butts] kicked every night and finding ways to lose baseball games. We've got to find a way to win a baseball game. How is that? I don't know. But we've got to keep battling."

It's never a good sign when your starting pitcher is icing his shoulder before a game. That's not supposed to happen until later, but Brian Burres was the exception, the treatment made necessary by a mild case of tendinitis.

He's also a symbol of the current state of the Orioles.

This isn't a healthy team - certainly not in the standings, where they remain in last place, and not really in any sense of the word. They give plenty of effort and have little to show for it.

Burres gutted out seven innings, the longest outing of his career, and left with the score 3-3. But the bullpen allowed three runs in the eighth, with Brian Roberts' throwing error aiding the rally, and the Orioles concluded a 1-8 homestand.

"It just seems like deja vu every day," said Jay Gibbons, who hit two doubles. "We come back, we get it close and we're just not able to hold on and get the big hit.

"A lot of times you say you'd like to get blown out 10-0 because it feels easier than losing every game by one or two runs. Just the emotions, being so close every day and not being able to close it out. I've never seen anything like this. We've had so many games like this, and it seems like we haven't won one of them."

Burres retired 15 in a row after Conor Jackson's RBI single in the second gave Arizona a 3-0 lead. He already had surrendered home runs to Eric Byrnes in the first and Chris Snyder in the second, and his pitch count was 46 heading into the third. But he made it through the seventh after issuing a two-out walk to Augie Ojeda that broke his streak, finishing with 115 pitches.

The Orioles tied the game against Brandon Webb, the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner, by scoring twice in the second and once in the third, but Chad Bradford put two runners on base in the eighth and Chad Tracy hit a run-scoring single off Jamie Walker.

With runners on second and third and the infield playing in, Roberts fielded Mark Reynolds' bouncer and threw home. The ball sailed past catcher Alberto Castillo, enabling Scott Hairston to score, and Reynolds took second on Castillo's throw to first while attempting to get him in a rundown.

"We've had an awful lot of things go wrong," Perlozzo said. "After a while, you just say: 'Uncle. What's going on?'"

Maybe Millar can find the answer tomorrow. It's his turn to search.

"How many times has Perlozzo come in here and said, 'Keep your heads up, play hard.' We've got to do it," Millar said. "He doesn't throw the ball, hit the ball and catch the ball. We've got to do it. It's our business in this clubhouse."

Said Gibbons: "Kevin's a good talker. Maybe he can motivate us in a different way. But I don't think the team has given up. It's just not getting done."

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