- The Washington Times - Monday, April 1, 2002

OUTFIELD
OUTLOOK: Baltimore will have three new starters in the outfield this Opening Day, and each figures to be an upgrade from 2001. Left fielder Marty Cordova (replacing the released Brady Anderson) revived his career in Cleveland and signed a three-year deal with the Orioles this winter. Center fielder Chris Singleton (replacing now-utility player Melvin Mora) is a career .283 hitter and plays solid defense. Jay Gibbons was having a fine rookie season until he broke his hand in Toronto - he'll play most days in right field until incumbent Chris Richard returns from shoulder surgery in July or August.

INFIELD/DH
OUTLOOK: Though he's one of the best defensive first basemen in the history of the game, the oft-injured David Segui may see more time as DH this season in an effort to keep his bat in the lineup. Segui's health is crucial to the Orioles' lackluster offense. Jeff Conine, the reigning team MVP, will split his time between first base, right field and DH and could fill in at third. Jerry Hairston is attempting to make the critical move from the bottom of the order to the leadoff spot - he must improve his on-base percentage to make it work. At 36, Mike Bordick has lost a step in the field and some pop in his bat, but he's still solid defensively at shortstop. Tony Batista, who replaces Cal Ripken at third, is Baltimore's most proven power threat (he hit 41 homers two years ago).

CATCHERS
OUTLOOK: The combined offensive production the Orioles received from their catchers last year (nine homers, 59 RBI and a .235 average) was atrocious and the team spent the entire spring without naming a definitive starter or backup. Based on his age (31) and three-year contract, Brook Fordyce should continue to get a majority of the playing time, though he must improve both offensively (.088 with runners in scoring position) and defensively (19.1 percent caught-stealing rate) from last season. Geronimo Gil has impressed the coaching staff with both his defensive prowess and surprisingly powerful bat and could supplant Fordyce as the No. 1 backstop. Fernando Lunar is referred to in the business as a "catch-and-throw guy," not generally a positive assessment.

BENCH
OUTLOOK: It won't be the deepest bench in baseball, but it does boast some versatility. Super-utility man Melvin Mora is invaluable in this role - he could wind up starting 3-4 times a week in any of six positions (left field, center field, right field, shortstop, second base, third base). Ryan McGuire has major-league experience with the Expos and Marlins and can play both first base and the outfield. Middle infielder Mike Moriarty is a good glove man and hit 13 homers each of the past two seasons in Class AAA. Outfielder Chad Allen was a semi-regular for the Twins before tearing his ACL last summer.

MANAGER/COACHES
Manager Mike Hargrove enters his third season in Baltimore having yet to post a .500 record, though he's not to blame for the Orioles' recent woes, considering the product he's been given to put on the field. He does have some tough decisions to make this season, most notably which young pitcher to mold into a closer and how to determine which catcher gets the bulk of the playing time. Signed through 2003, Hargrove is in no danger of losing his job this year. Pitching coach Mark Wiley returns for a second season, which qualifies as big news for a franchise that went through eight different coaches in eight years. Third-base coach Tom Trebelhorn is as aggressive as they come sending runners home, oftentimes too much. Fan favorite Rick Dempsey takes over at first base after Eddie Murray left to become hitting coach in Cleveland.


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