- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 30, 2002

Baltimore Orioles vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift found his coveted center fielder yesterday when he acquired Chris Singleton from the Chicago White Sox for minor league second baseman/outfielder Willie Harris.
Perhaps equally as significant, Thrift indirectly sent a message to Jerry Hairston that the time has come for the 25-year-old second baseman to turn himself into a legitimate leadoff hitter.
In acquiring Singleton, a career .283 hitter with a strong defensive reputation, the Orioles say they now possess the proven everyday center fielder the organization sorely lacked.
"Center field is a critical position, and he's an outstanding defensive center fielder," Thrift said. "I think he's going to be a better hitter the more he plays. He should be a 300 hitter."
Singleton, 29, batted .298 with seven home runs and 45 RBI in 140 games for the White Sox last year, finishing strong with a .357 average over the final two months. In addition, Singleton, who will make $1.4 million this season and be introduced in Baltimore today at a news conference, provides a strong presence in the clubhouse. An ordained minister, he was asked by his Chicago teammates to lead them in prayer during a remembrance for victims of the September 11 attacks.
Though he occupied every spot in the Chicago lineup at least once last year, Singleton is not seen as a classic leadoff hitter. Thrift said yesterday he and manager Mike Hargrove had not yet discussed where Singleton might fit into the Orioles' lineup, but he gave strong indication that he expects the free-swinging Hairston who spent the majority of last season at the bottom of the order to make the adjustments necessary to assume the leadoff spot permanently.
"[Singleton] has been most productive in the past hitting second in the batting order," Thrift said. "I think right now we should concentrate on Jerry Hairston working on becoming a leadoff hitter."
The trade also allows Baltimore to shift Melvin Mora, previously projected as the team's regular center fielder and leadoff hitter, to the utility role for which he is best suited. Mora out for most of spring training with a broken finger has the versatility to serve as a backup outfielder, shortstop and second baseman, a quality that has made him one of the Orioles' most coveted players by other teams.
Harris, 23, earned the Brooks Robinson Award as the organization's top position player last season after batting .305 with 54 stolen bases at Class AA Bowie. He made a nine-game appearance with the Orioles in September, but with several similar players already in the system outfielders Luis Matos, Larry Bigbie and Tim Raines Jr. along with second basemen Hairston and Brian Roberts Harris' short-term chances of making the major-league roster were slim.
"He's going to be a good major league player for some time, I told him that this morning," Thrift said. "But you have to be willing to give something up. You can't get something for nothing."

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