BALTIMORE When we last saw Chris Richard, he was leading the Baltimore Orioles in home runs. That was only 15 days ago, but when Richard returned to the Orioles’ active roster last night, the outfielder found himself trailing Jay Gibbons and newcomer Tony Batista for the team lead.
“Oh, I don’t worry about that kind of stuff,” Richard said. “I just want to be out there and play. We’ve been playing pretty well.”
Plagued by a sprained right knee, the product of a nasty crash into the outfield wall June 19, Richard was activated off the 15-day disabled list before last night’s game against the Yankees. With left-hander Ted Lilly starting for New York, however, Richard was not in the starting lineup.
“He hasn’t taken a live at-bat in two weeks,” manager Mike Hargrove said. “I’m not sure the best thing to do is to throw him in against a left-hander.”
To make room on its 25-man roster for Richard, whose nine home runs now trails both Batista (14) and Gibbons (10), Baltimore optioned outfielder Larry Bigbie back to Class AA Bowie. Given Bigbie’s relative lack of experience, even on the minor league level, his demotion was expected.
“I knew the situation, so this wasn’t a surprise,” said Bigbie, who batted .174 (4-for-23) with one RBI in seven games with the Orioles. “It was a great opportunity for me to come up here and play at this level and kind of see what things are like. I think it’ll make things easier for me in the future.”
New role for Brady?
Like Richard, Brady Anderson is now ready to resume playing after missing time with an injury. Anderson also crashed into the wall June 19, though he continued to play for a week until missing the last six games with a bruised right shoulder.
The possibility of Anderson going on the DL arose in recent days, but any thought of that was tossed away when the 37-year-old outfielder came in as a pinch-runner during the eighth inning of Wednesday’s 4-3 loss to the Yankees.
“They were thinking if I wasn’t ready by the Phillies series [beginning tonight], they’d put me on the DL,” Anderson said. “After yesterday, I told them I was ready.”
Ready or not, the slumping Anderson figures to see his playing time reduced in the coming days, with Baltimore’s outfield suddenly clogged with red-hot hitters.
The acquisition of third baseman Batista last week has turned Jeff Conine, batting .318 with nine homers and 47 RBI, into a regular outfielder. Center fielder Melvin Mora is batting .325 over his last 59 games, while left fielder Gibbons has eight home runs in his last 15 games.
Anderson, meantime, holds a .206 batting average and could find himself in a part-time role, much like Cal Ripken since late April.
Hargrove deflected questions about Anderson’s role yesterday, saying only he didn’t “want to address that until I’ve talked with Brady. Ask me again in a couple of days.”
Anderson said he’s “heard talk” but hasn’t paid much attention to speculation about his future.
Pitcher Sidney Ponson, forced to leave Wednesday’s game after two innings because of a bloody blister on his right middle finger, is not expected to miss his next start. The date of Ponson’s next outing, however, has not been determined yet.
Next week’s All-Star break will allow Hargrove and pitching coach Mark Wiley a chance to reshuffle their rotation, though the two have not discussed it yet.