- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 2, 2002

JUPITER, Fla. They introduced the starters for the Montreal Expos one by one yesterday, players jogging out of the home dugout at Roger Dean Stadium and assembling along the third-base line.
And in a show of appreciation for their favorite team, approximately four fans cheered as Frank Robinson and Vladimir Guerrero were introduced over the P.A. system.
"Deafening," Baltimore Orioles first baseman Jeff Conine said jokingly.
This was for the Expos' home opener of the spring. Imagine how excited the crowds will be after four more weeks of thrilling Grapefruit League play.
Of course, it already has been well documented how Montreal doesn't want to support the Expos. Should it be any different in Jupiter?
"We have to go out there and sell this ballclub, now more than ever before," said catcher Michael Barrett of the lame-duck Expos, who figure to be contracted or possibly relocated to Washington after this season. "Because of the uncertainty about the future of this ballclub, we all have to pull together."
It's not going to be an easy sell. Yesterday's game drew an announced crowd of 1,833. The problem isn't a lack of baseball interest in Jupiter; the St. Louis Cardinals, who share the facility with the Expos, played in front of 6,620 the previous day.
Maybe the fans will come out in droves next season, when the Orioles and Expos/Senators/Nationals start building what could develop into a heated regional rivalry.
The distance between the Orioles' camp in Fort Lauderdale and the Expos' in Jupiter is 60 miles a short drive up I-95 and not all that different from a 40-mile trip down the same highway from Camden Yards to RFK Stadium.

Catching battle heats up
By the time spring training is over, the Orioles will have to decide which two catchers to keep on their Opening Day roster from among Brook Fordyce, Fernando Lunar and Geronimo Gil. Considering that Gil is the only one who has minor league options remaining, the decision would seem to be obvious. But manager Mike Hargrove isn't ruling out keeping Gil, especially when the 26-year-old plays like he did yesterday in Baltimore's 5-1 loss to the Expos.
Gil, acquired last summer from the Los Angeles Dodgers along with pitcher Kris Foster for veteran reliever Mike Trombley, went 1-for-3 and had a likely home run get caught in the wind and drift foul. Perhaps most importantly, given the Orioles' troubles in this area last year, Gil threw out two would-be base stealers.
Hargrove said he's in no rush to name a No.1 catcher and that the decision will likely come down to the final days of spring training. All things being equal, the 31-year-old Fordyce probably would get the job.
"I think that's a safe assumption," Hargrove said. "But I reserve the right to change that assumption."

Extra bases
Sean Douglass, one of several pitchers in the running for the fifth spot in the starting rotation, had a somewhat shaky spring debut. In two innings, Douglass gave up two runs on two hits and walked two batters. …
John Stephens, the Orioles' minor league pitcher of the year in 2001, looked sharp in his first appearance, tossing two scoreless innings of relief. Stephens, a 22-year-old control artist who went 11-4 with a 1.84 ERA at Class AA Bowie last year, likely will start the season at Class AAA Rochester. "I thought he threw well," Hargrove said. "He threw a couple of good curveballs. He moved his fastball in and out, and he's got a dynamite changeup. I like him. I've liked him since the first time I saw him throw." …
Baltimore scored its lone run in the first inning when Chris Singleton doubled to left-center and scored on an infield single by Jay Gibbons.

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