The Baltimore Sun

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Orioles executive vice president Mike Flanagan watched Brian Burres' performance on television in his Camden Yards office Tuesday and couldn't help but smile.

He enjoyed Burres' dropping his arm angle and throwing a curveball to strike out David Murphy with the bases loaded in the fourth inning in the Orioles' 8-1 victory over the Texas Rangers in the series opener. But he took just as much satisfaction from the ground balls the Orioles left-hander was able to induce from the Rangers' left-handed hitters in allowing just one earned run in six-plus innings.

Flanagan, who has a Cy Young Award and 167 major league victories on his resume, started working with Burres this spring on the pitcher's approach against left-handed hitters. One of his suggestions was for Burres to drop down sidearm in certain situations.

"I talked to [pitching coach Rick Kranitz] about it early in the spring after a couple of his innings where he had trouble with lefties," said Flanagan, who has been asked by club president Andy MacPhail to help out with the organization's pitching. "You could just see that he had a plan of attack against righties with that changeup, but you just didn't see the same against a lefty. He appeared to be pressing and overthrowing.

"It's something that I felt that Brian could do. We really had one good [bullpen] session, and we just kind of worked through it. He's done well with it."

In Burres' career, left-handed batters are hitting .289 against him with five home runs in 39 2/3 innings, compared with .282 with 10 home runs in 96 1/3 innings for right-handers.

"If he can get lefties out, he can be anything on this club," Flanagan said. "Part of it was just giving him another weapon that I thought would help. He's a good kid, he works hard and he wants to learn."

Burres said Flanagan's message has gave him more confidence. "I just feel better in making my pitches," he said.

Jones humbled

Orioles center fielder Adam Jones hasn't been in the big leagues very long, but he learned long ago that getting summoned to the manager's office usually isn't a good thing. But it was yesterday as Orioles manager Dave Trembley called Jones to his office and asked the 22-year-old whether he would wear No. 42 in Tuesday's game as Major League Baseball honors the legacy of Jackie Robinson.

Jackie Robinson Day, which is celebrated April 15, was introduced in 2004 to commemorate the day Robinson broke the major league color barrier. "It's a tremendous honor," said Jones, who has read several books about Robinson. "I think it's good the league does it for African-American players."

Trembley said Jones was a perfect selection. "It's his mother's birthday on that day, and he knows the history of Jackie Robinson," he said. "He is a tremendous representative of our club to wear that jersey that day."

Roberts to speak

Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts will speak at an educational conference about steroids for area high school student athletes and coaches April 18 at the Crowne Plaza in Timonium.

The free conference, called "Playing Safe, Fair and Sober," is part of the St. Joseph's Medical Center's Powered by ME! campaign, which aims to educate coaches, parents, teachers, athletic trainers, young athletes and the public about the dangers of anabolic steroids and performance-enhancing supplements.

Roberts, who admitted that he tried steroids once after his name appeared in the Mitchell Report, will join Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings, Maryland State Department of Education Superintendent Dr. Nancy Grasmick, and Brenda and Frank Marrero, whose son committed suicide at age 19 after abusing steroids.

The conference is open to students in grades 9-12 from Baltimore area high schools on a first-come, first-served basis. Each school can bring up to eight students and two coaches. Pre-registration is required by Monday.

Walk this way

There is probably a good reason Luis Hernandez has tripled his walk total from last year in just seven games this season. Trembley acknowledged yesterday that he has given Hernandez the take sign regularly with 1-0 and 2-0 counts, hoping that it will allow the light-hitting shortstop to focus on shortening his swing and working the count.

Hernandez has walked three times in 18 plate appearances this season after walking just once in 71 plate appearances last year. He's also seeing 3.78 pitches per at-bat this year, compared with 3.01 last season.

"He needs to get on base," Trembley said. "I think it's helped him because he's seeing more pitches."

Around the horn

Catcher Ramon Hernandez is on an 0-for-13 skid and is just 3-for-23 this season with all three hits coming in one game. ... No team that has started the season with a 6-1 record has finished with 100 losses, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The 1977 Oakland Athletics posted the worst final record (63-98) for a team that started 6-1. ... The Orioles started yesterday second in the American League in batting average (.285), on-base percentage (.359), slugging percentage (.474), batting average against (.224), and fielding percentage (.993). The Orioles' bullpen leads the league with a 0.74 ERA.

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