- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 30, 2002

BOSTON The Baltimore Orioles entered this season cautiously optimistic about Jerry Hairston's potential as a leadoff hitter. These days, it's not even a given he will be in the starting lineup.
Hairston sat out his second straight game last night, with rookie Mike Moriarty getting another start at second base. Officially, Hairston is dealing with a minor hamstring injury. Unofficially, he's dealing with difficulties at the plate.
Though Hairston has raised his batting average 50 points (from .156 to .206) since relinquishing his leadoff spot to hot-hitting Melvin Mora, he has yet to show the discipline and patience at the plate he had during a strong spring.
"It never really bothered me where I hit in the lineup," Hairston said. "[Mora] has done a great job, and I totally understand it. If I were to make out the lineup, I'd bat Melvin leadoff right now."
When Hairston was not included in Sunday's lineup at Kansas City, manager Mike Hargrove said it was merely a day off. When he left Hairston off the lineup card again last night against the Red Sox, he cited both the strained left hamstring and the good things he's seen from Moriarty (who went 1-for-4 with his first career RBI on Sunday).
But Hargrove also hinted that Hairston is still having trouble maturing as a big-league hitter.
"Jerry will play," Hargrove said. "Jerry is a good player, and when he pays attention to what it is that makes him good and stays true to that, then Jerry can be very good."
"I don't think that we've dismissed the plan of Jerry being a leadoff hitter," Hargrove added. "It's just that Melvin has a .480 on-base percentage (actually .452 entering last night's game). If you want to call that riding the hot hand, that's probably what we're doing."

Towers showing improvement
Josh Towers has appeared in just one game since being demoted from the starting rotation a three-inning relief stint last Thursday against Boston. But the right-hander is encouraged by the progress he's making in side sessions.
The Orioles have been trying to get Towers who was sent to the bullpen after losing his first three starts and surrendering eight home runs to work on his pitch selection. He's been focusing on his curveball and making sure that his pitching motion comes over the top to create more downward motion.
That in turn should help him keep his pitches down in the strike zone.
"I'm working on one thing that hopefully will have a combination of effects," he said. "I feel better now than I did after any start. Maybe now I'm where I need to be."

Extra bases
David Segui's sore left hand is getting better, but the designated hitter still sat out his third straight game last night. Hargrove speculated that Segui would be ready to return today.
The Orioles entered last night's game leading the American League with a .986 fielding percentage, thanks in no small part to third baseman Tony Batista, who has played every inning of the season and has yet to commit an error.

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