- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 19, 2002

From combined dispatches
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. As sure as college students flock to sunny Florida for spring break, Larry Bigbie will soon depart the Baltimore Orioles' spring camp.
Nothing Bigbie can do not even his .333 spring training batting average or the two-run home run he hit in an 8-3 loss to Boston yesterday will change the Orioles' plans to send him to Rochester for a full year of Class AAA seasoning. Bigbie knew that coming into camp and it's not a concern for the outfielder.
"I need some more at-bats, and if going back to triple-A for a whole season is what I need, I'm all for it … I think a lot of guys would take it as a slap in the face to go back down, but I'm looking forward to it," Bigbie said.
Oddly, Bigbie is in his first major league camp this year and it follows his big league debut.
Bigbie was hitting .300 for Class AA Bowie last year when outfielder Chris Richard went on the disabled list with a bruised knee. Bigbie made three stints with Baltimore, hitting .229 with two home runs and 11 RBI in 47 games.
Much of his time with the Orioles was spent adjusting to being unexpectedly fast-tracked to the majors.
"Maybe when I first got called up, I was trying to prove to everybody what I could do instead of relaxing," Bigbie said. "Now, everybody knows what I can do; they know what kind of player you are."
That still won't help Bigbie land a spot on the Opening Day roster. The Orioles are set with free agent signee Marty Cordova in left, ex-Chicago White Sox Chris Singleton in center and second-year slugger Jay Gibbons in right.
Melvin Mora will be the primary backup in the outfield and the Orioles will choose between outfielder Chad Allen and first baseman-outfielder Ryan McGuire non-roster invitees with extensive major league experience as the second reserve.
So, Bigbie is turning what many may see as a negative into a positive.
"It takes a ton of pressure off," said Bigbie, who had six hits in 18 at-bats with one RBI entering the game against Boston. "I'm playing to learn instead of playing to get to Baltimore. At some point, I hope I've showed them what I've learned from the last stint I was up and that I've made progress. I want them to keep that faith in me."
He's certainly opened manager Mike Hargrove's eyes.
"Larry is a better player, a better hitter, than the last time I saw him in Baltimore. He's stronger, more sure of himself, more assertive," Bigbie said. "I've always thought Larry had talent, but you wanted to see the change we've seen from then to now the change that I've seen."
Bigbie spent the offseason in his Valparaiso, Ind., home, bulking up in the weight room. At 6-foot-4 and 202 pounds, he still looks slender, but more powerful.
"I'm not trying to do too much this spring, and the pressure's taken off. I can come in, have fun and learn from my first big league camp and I know I'll still end up in triple-A," Bigbie said. "They'll know I am making progress and I am proceeding in the right direction. I want them to know that I am developing into the good young prospect they're hoping for."
Hargrove, for one, is impressed.
"This kid has a very legitimate chance to be a very good major league player at some point in time," Hargrove said.
Note
Rickey Henderson hit a two-run homer, Dustin Hermanson had his best start of the spring and Rey Sanchez had four hits as Boston beat the Orioles 8-3 in Fort Myers.
Hermanson, who had allowed 12 earned runs in 6⅔ innings coming in, gave up two runs and five hits in five innings. Bigbie hit a two-run homer off him in the fifth.
Sanchez was 4-for-4 with an RBI to improve his average to .313 (9-for-29). He is competing with Jose Offerman for the starting job at second base.
Boston took a 2-0 lead in the first inning on Shea Hillebrand's RBI single and Manny Ramirez's run-scoring foulout.
Henderson homered in the fourth and Juan Diaz connected in the seventh.
Loser Erik Bedard allowed two runs and six hits in three innings.


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