Millar charges his critics with an error

The Baltimore Sun

The book on Orioles first baseman Kevin Millar reads, "Solid bat, good eye, great attitude, bad glove."

Millar thinks the book needs to be revised. Or tossed.

One American League scout agrees. He said Millar is playing an above-average first base and has emerged as among the best at defensive saves - making sure errant throws don't get past him.

"He has been awesome," Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts said. "When you talk about first basemen, you talk about not only the plays they make but the ones they save for other guys. And that's what I think I have been most impressed with."

Millar and the Boston Red Sox's Kevin Youkilis are the only big league players to have logged 50 or more games at first this season without an error. He's seventh in the majors in range factor - putouts plus assists divided by innings played - among those with 50 or more games at first.

Don't act surprised, Millar said. He admits his range is limited, but he cleanly fields whatever is hit or thrown at him. He always has, he said; it's just that now he has the opportunity to play first consistently.

"I have never been a bad first baseman," Millar said. "I have always been a below-average outfielder because of my lack of speed and arm strength."

The problem, he said, is that the tag of poor outfielder turned into "below-average defender. But at first base I never earned that label. It was just there."

He said he couldn't do anything about it except keep working at the position.

"Is it frustrating to have the label? Of course, but I have enjoyed to try and prove every year that I am a better first baseman than people give me credit for," Millar said. "By no means do I feel I'm Don Mattingly, but my job is to be the best I can be."

Hall of Fame move

Although Cal Ripken Jr. enters the Hall of Fame today as one of the game's best shortstops, the man who switched the 6-foot-4 Ripken from third base in 1982 said it wasn't a stroke of genius. It was, Earl Weaver said, a combination of necessity and childhood inspiration. Weaver said the Orioles' offense was scuffling, so he moved Ripken in hopes he could get more production out of third base while not losing much at shortstop.

"It was a selfish move. We were losing some ballgames," Weaver said. "We didn't have any offense."

He said he wasn't worried about Ripken's height because Ripken reminded him of Marty Marion, the St. Louis Cardinals' All-Star shortstop in the 1940s, whom Weaver watched while he was growing up in Missouri. Weaver remembers Marion as "6-foot-3, 6-foot-4," though records say he was 6 feet 2. Anything over 5 feet 8 would have been tall to the diminutive Weaver. Regardless, it worked.

"[Ripken] as a rookie was able to go to the center of that infield and take over," Weaver said. "It was just natural, and I get a lot of credit for it."

Nice ending

Six hours after Houston Astros icon Craig Biggio announced Tuesday he'd retire at season's end, he hit a grand slam that ultimately won the game.

"I didn't even feel like I was touching the bases at times," Biggio said. "It was just a magical, magical day."

Shabby delivery

Rumors circulated out of a Kansas City radio station last week that Royals outfielder Reggie Sanders had been traded. The origin? Sanders had some things shipped to his permanent home in Arizona. The boxes contained stuff for his kids, but the delivery man thought he had a scoop and called into the station.

Quote of the week

"Oh, he will. It's either a haircut or two black eyes and a haircut."

Seattle Mariners reliever George Sherrill talking about pitcher Felix Hernandez, who had been the only Mariner not to get a team-unifying buzz cut after a five-game losing streak. Hernandez eventually gave in, and then the Mariners lost their sixth straight.

Quick hits

Despite what agent Scott Boras and Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks have said, it looks likely that Maryland native and Rangers first baseman Mark Teixeira will be on the move by Tuesday's 4 p.m. non-waiver trade deadline. Both Los Angeles teams, the Atlanta Braves and, gulp, Boston seem to be the most aggressive. ... The Chicago White Sox would love to deal Jose Contreras, but he has an 8.27 ERA over his past 11 starts.

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