Gibbons relaxes at plate, finds comfort zone

The Baltimore Sun

PHOENIX -- One at-bat ended with a scorching line drive to the left fielder, another with a diving stop by the shortstop to produce the game's final out.

When you're Jay Gibbons and your average is .212, the ball never seems to elude a glove. But it's obvious that his approach at the plate has improved, even if his numbers have been slow to do so.

Gibbons went 1-for-3 with two walks and two runs on Saturday, and his night would have been more productive if Arizona's Eric Byrnes hadn't caught the line drive and Augie Ojeda hadn't smothered the sharp ground ball. He drove in two runs Friday - his first multi-RBI game since April 16 - and singled as a pinch hitter yesterday.

"This is as good as I've felt all year," he said. "I'm making them throw strikes. The results aren't there right now, but that's not always important."

Gibbons, who is 11-for-61 (.180) in his past 21 games, has moved closer to the plate and sped up his swing by being more relaxed. It showed yesterday when he lined his single into right field.

"I think I found my path to the ball," he said, explaining that his hands are getting to it quicker. "I've been locking my arms and coming around on the ball, which makes you late. It's all mechanics."

Interim manager Dave Trembley noticed that Gibbons was squeezing the bat handle so tightly he almost turned it into sawdust.

"I think he was thinking it was a tryout when he was playing," Trembley said. "I told him: 'Gibby, it's not a tryout. You've put up numbers in the past and you have a track record for driving in runs. Let's not put a whole lot of undue pressure on ourselves that every at-bat is life or death.' I think Crow [hitting coach Terry Crowley] got him to relax a little bit. ...

"I think he's feeling pretty good about himself. He's got a little bounce in his step. He's a lot more outgoing. It just seems like he wants to play baseball."

'It was no big deal'

Orioles third base coach Juan Samuel downplayed a report in yesterday's San Diego Union-Tribune that said he and utility man Freddie Bynum had a verbal and then physical confrontation before the Orioles' 7-1 victory over the Padres on Wednesday night.

"It was nothing," Samuel said. "It was no big deal, just something that was between player and coach."

The newspaper reported that the two had words during batting practice and it escalated into the clubhouse when Samuel "slammed into Bynum, launching the player into his dressing stall." The paper said that Orioles outfielder Jay Payton restored order in the clubhouse.

Bynum, who acknowledged that he had words with first base coach Sam Mejias earlier this season in Toronto, denied that an incident took place, saying, "I've never had a problem with Juan."

No complaints from Bedard

While stopping short of saying that he'll definitely take his next scheduled turn in the rotation, Erik Bedard emerged from his second straight bullpen session feeling good, making it likely that he'll be on the mound Wednesday against the New York Yankees opposite Roger Clemens.

Bedard's start was in doubt after he left his last outing after six innings with a strained left hamstring.

"It's a day-to-day thing," Bedard said. "I don't really feel it. I think it's only really a game thing."

Asked if the hamstring could force him to pitch tentatively, Bedard said, "I'll pitch like I always pitch and if I pull it, there's nothing that I can do."

Parrish's new groove

It started with a scoreless seventh inning in San Diego and progressed to another Friday and two more shutout innings Saturday night. Left-hander John Parrish is showing signs that he's rediscovering the form that made him one of the top stories in spring training.

Parrish has allowed runs in five of 10 appearances since May 24, racking up an 8.38 ERA over 9 2/3 innings. He has been working with pitching coach Leo Mazzone and believes he has found a solution - staying more on top of the ball and not rushing his delivery or over-throwing, which has made his slider more effective.

"I've been slowing everything down and letting my arm action take care of it," he said. "I'm feeling a lot more confident my last couple of outings."

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