- The Washington Times - Monday, February 26, 2001

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. It was only a five-inning intrasquad game, the first of the spring for the Baltimore Orioles, but that didn't prevent several storylines from beginning to play out yesterday.

For starters, Pat Hentgen looked extremely sharp in his first unofficial inning of work with the Orioles.

Then there was Albert Belle, swinging the bat with authority but looking anything but nimble in right field after letting a ball get under his glove.

Perhaps most intriguing, though, was the play of Delino DeShields in left field. A somewhat forgotten man on the roster despite earning team MVP honors last season, DeShields seems to be stating his case for a permanent spot in the outfield.

Or, at the very least, he's marketing himself to other ballclubs who might be interested in acquiring the versatile veteran before the regular season begins.

"All I can do is play," said DeShields, who had a base hit and made two fine defensive plays yesterday. "I'm not a politician. I've gotta let them handle it."

DeShields is coming off one of the best seasons of his career, having batted .296 with 86 RBI and 37 stolen bases. Yet there is no guarantee he'll be in the lineup everyday unless something changes in the next month.

Melvin Mora is slated to start in center field. Should his degenerative hip hold up, Belle will be in right field. That leaves Brady Anderson, Chris Richard and DeShields to occupy left field and designated hitter.

Last week, manager Mike Hargrove seemed to indicate Anderson would get the nod over DeShields in left because of his superior defensive skills. He backed off that statement yesterday, though, saying right now he likely would start DeShields in the field over Anderson.

"Between Brady and Delino, right now, you'll find one in left field and one DH-ing," Hargrove said. "But that could change real rapidly."

A second baseman most of his career, DeShields, 32, made his first outfield appearance Aug. 12 and wound up making 38 starts in left field by season's end.

With 24-year-old Jerry Hairston's progression at second base giving him the starting job, DeShields appears to be an outfielder for good.

"I like it out there," said DeShields, who made a nice, outstretched catch against the wall off the bat of David Segui yesterday and later threw out Ed Rogers trying to stretch a single into a double. "It just took a little while to get used to it. I feel a lot better now out there than I did at any point last year. I'm never going to have that Raul Mondesi arm. I just have to use my speed to get to balls and get it in."

For now, he's not worried about who he's playing for as long as he's playing for someone. Hargrove will continue to give him a shot both in left field and at DH and would bat him third in the lineup, where he provided a potent bat last year.

That said, DeShields is prepared to change addresses if another team shows interest.

"I'd like to play in the playoffs, hopefully here," he said. "I want to play as well as I can, so whatever comes along, I can at least be mentioned.

"I may not be able to play second like I did anymore. But I can still play and I think help the team."

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