Jays' Halladay strong-arms O's yet again

Given another chance to beat Toronto Blue Jays starter Roy Halladay yesterday, the Orioles once again failed to figure out a way to get it done. All they could do was take their hacks and marvel at his talents.

Halladay improved to 18-4 with a 2.86 ERA lifetime against the Orioles. He held them to one run over seven innings, walking one and striking out six.


The Orioles' only run came when Luke Scott's flyout scored Aubrey Huff in the sixth inning. Huff and Melvin Mora singled with one out.

"I tell you, he's probably the best in the league," manager Dave Trembley said of Halladay. "He makes pitches when he has to, and he's got command of both sides of the plate. He's exceptional."


It's not as if the Orioles lacked for chances. Brian Roberts and Huff singled in the first inning, Halladay hit Guillermo Quiroz in the second, Adam Jones singled in the third, Mora led of the fourth with a double and Roberts walked in the seventh. But Halladay kept getting the outs when he needed them most, the first one to the outfield not coming until the fifth inning.

"I think he changes the way he pitches when he gets runners on," Huff said. "With nobody on, he comes at you a little more. When you get runners in scoring position, he uses his off-speed [stuff] a little bit more.

"For the money, he's the best in the game. You've just got to go out there and grind it out every day he pitches and hope he makes a mistake. Today, he didn't make too many."

Walker struggles

Minor league hitters weren't much kinder to Jamie Walker than the major league crew.

Pitching for Double-A Bowie yesterday on an injury rehabilitation assignment, Walker allowed three runs - including a homer - and five hits in one inning. It was Walker's first game since going on the disabled list with an inflamed left elbow.

"We'll see how he feels the day after, and we'll go from there," Trembley said earlier in the day. "Legally, we can send him out for 21 days on a minor league rehab. I don't expect that's what's going to occur, but Walker was great about it."

Shortstop Alex Cintron, also on a rehab assignment with Bowie, went 1-for-2 with a strikeout.


Citizen Castro

Juan Castro returned to the Orioles yesterday and started the regularly scheduled game at shortstop after flying to Phoenix on Wednesday and being sworn in as an American citizen.

Castro, 36, was born in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico, but lives with his wife, Yadi, in Glendale, Ariz. They applied for citizenship in November and received a list of 100 questions to study. Only six appeared on the test.

"We were nervous," he said, "but everything went OK."

Big winner in Bowie

Brad Bergesen, 22, earned his 12th win for Bowie on Wednesday night, one short of the franchise single-season record. And he's gaining more notice from the Orioles.


Bergesen, a fourth-round pick in the 2004 draft out of Foothill (Calif.) High, posted a 2.08 ERA in four games at Single-A Frederick before moving up to the Eastern League, where he will take a 2.91 ERA into his next start.

"He's a strike-thrower, sinker-slider. He's caught a lot of our interest. We've had scouts go in there and look at him. I've got the reports," Trembley said.

"He's a guy you want to be sure about. He's a guy we've really got to think about later on."

Meanwhile, Triple-A Norfolk's Hayden Penn turned in one of his most impressive starts Tuesday, allowing two runs in seven innings. He's 4-6 with a 5.17 ERA.

"One time doesn't get him a plane ticket here. It puts him back on the radar is what it does," Trembley said. "We'll follow him a little more closely, and we'll be anxious to see if he can repeat it."

Around the horn


Team president Andy MacPhail said the Orioles have "backed off" reliever Chris Ray, who is rehabbing from ligament-reconstructive surgery on his right elbow. Ray wanted to pitch again this season, but the Orioles figured he would need more time. They still expect him to be ready for spring training. ... Catcher Matt Wieters had a pinch-hit grand slam yesterday for Bowie and is batting .345.