- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 1, 2002

BOSTON One night after nearly doing a split trying to make a tag on Tony Clark at the plate, catcher Geronimo Gil was walking around the Baltimore Orioles clubhouse without any noticeable limp.

And though Gil sat out last night's game against the Boston Red Sox, the rookie catcher's hamstring and groin injuries are not believed to be as serious as previously thought, meaning he could return to the lineup as soon as tonight.

"I don't think it's a [disabled list] situation," manager Mike Hargrove said. "[Trainer] Richie [Bancells] described it to me as more of a stretch than a strain. So if the most minor strain you can have is a grade 1, I guess a stretch would be a minus 1."

That's good news for the Orioles, who have come to rely on Gil's offensive production on a daily basis. The rookie has hit safely in six straight games, batting .500 during that span with three doubles, four homers and 11 RBI. His fifth home run of the season Monday night put him in a tie with the Mets' Mike Piazza for the major league lead among catchers.

Gil injured both his right hamstring and his left groin during the seventh-inning play involving Clark. He had to leave his feet to catch a high throw from left fielder Melvin Mora, then nearly did a split as he came down and tried to tag Clark.

One day removed from the dangerous play, Gil was able to smile.

"I feel better," he said. "If I go out [today], play catch and swing a bat good, then I should be able to play."

Bullpen takes shape

The Orioles' seven-man bullpen includes three rookies (Jorge Julio, Rick Bauer, Travis Driskill) and two second-year pitchers (Willis Roberts and Josh Towers), but the way Hargrove has used them lately makes you think they're all established veterans.

Each reliever has begun to assume a defined role: Julio as closer, Buddy Groom and B.J. Ryan as left-handed match-up men, Roberts and Bauer as set-up men and Towers and Driskill as long men. It's a luxury that Hargrove had not previously enjoyed in his two-plus seasons in Baltimore, and it's making a difference. Entering last night's game, the Orioles' bullpen had a 3.01 ERA, third best in the American League.

"It's easier to produce, and it's easier to handle a bullpen when you have defined roles," Hargrove said. "But you have to have the talent to match the roles, and this is close to having an entire bullpen where the talents match the roles we've got them in."

Extra bases

Rookie right-hander Sean Douglass, who struggled in his season debut Friday at Kansas City, goes up against three-time Cy Young Award winner Pedro Martinez tonight. "Obviously I know who I'm pitching against, but either way it's irrelevant," Douglass said. "It doesn't matter who's out there. It could be the guy with the worst record in the league it could be the best pitcher. All I can do is go out and do my best."

Designated hitter David Segui returned to the lineup last night after missing three games with a sore left hand.

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