- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 23, 2002

OAKLAND, Calif. Jerry Hairston left Network Associates Coliseum late Tuesday night with spirits high following what was arguably his best game of the season. The Baltimore second baseman went 3-for-5 and hit his first home run of the season in helping lead the Orioles to a 14-inning, 6-4 victory over the Oakland Athletics.
It didn't take long for those good vibes to disappear, because within seconds upon arriving at the ballpark yesterday morning, Hairston was summoned into manager Mike Hargrove's office.
By the time he emerged, Hairston had lost his job as a regular to 24-year-old Brian Roberts, leaving one of the organization's most hyped young players with an uncertain future.
"Obviously, I want [my future] to be here. I love Baltimore," Hairston said. "But, hey, reality's reality. I'm prepared for anything. It's a long season."
Though Hairston's play has improved in the past two weeks (he entered yesterday batting .343 over his last 11 games), he has not been consistent enough to justify a daily spot in the lineup. Hairston's .239 batting average, .315 on-base percentage and five stolen bases were far less than the organization had hoped for in his third major league season.
Thus, Hairston will give way to Roberts, though he'll continue to play on a semi-regular basis.
"Jerry's not going to sit down," Hargrove said. "Brian's not going to play seven days a week; neither is Jerry. But Brian will probably get the bulk of the playing time at second base. This is really the first time since Jerry's been here that he's had competition for his job, legitimate competition. And that's not a bad thing, for anybody."
The prospects of such a move became likely Tuesday, when the Orioles recalled Roberts from Class AAA Rochester. Hargrove has long maintained that the only way Roberts (who appeared in 75 games with Baltimore last season) would be promoted would be if he were to receive regular playing time.
"Brian Roberts is here for a reason, and that reason is to play," Hargrove said. "Also, Brian's main position is second base, so it means that Jerry is going to get less playing time. We're looking for something to spark this offense a little bit, and we're going to see what Brian Roberts can do."
Hairston knew Roberts' arrival Tuesday might lead to something like this, though he did point out how early in the season the announcement came.
"I'd be lying to you if I was surprised," he said. "But what is it, May 22? It's not even June. But I feel great, and I'm going to support the team."
Perhaps not wanting to crush Hairston's spirits completely following his strong performance Tuesday night, Hargrove started him at second base yesterday and batted him ninth, with Roberts serving as designated hitter in the No.2 spot.
"I saw some really good things out of Jerry last night," Hargrove said. "Was it because Brian's here? I don't know. But if that was part of the reason, then good. If not, it's still good."
While it would seem unlikely that the Orioles would want to keep both Hairston and Roberts on their major league roster if one is not going to play every day, Hargrove dispelled any notion that Hairston might be sent down to the minors or traded in the immediate future.
"We're not going to trade Jerry," Hargrove said. "I told him, 'You're an asset. We're not in the business of trading assets, especially 25-year-old assets.'"

Orioles win marathon
Despite blowing an early 4-0 lead, the Orioles rallied to beat Oakland late Tuesday night, as Chris Singleton and Gary Matthews Jr. singled in runs in the 14th inning to snap a two-game losing streak and open a difficult West Coast trip with a win.
Baltimore scored four times in the first three innings off A's left-hander Barry Zito on homers by Hairston and Geronimo Gil. But right-hander Rick Bauer in relief of Rodrigo Lopez gave up three runs on two homers in the eighth inning, costing Lopez a shot at becoming the first pitcher in franchise history to go 6-0 in his rookie season.
But the Orioles bullpen clamped down after that, as five relievers combined to hold the A's to three hits over the final 6⅔ innings. Travis Driskill earned his first career win, and Jorge Julio notched his ninth save.
"There were a lot of times we could have rolled over, but we didn't," Hargrove said. "We stayed tough mentally."

Segui surgery
Designated hitter David Segui underwent successful surgery on his left wrist Tuesday in Baltimore, though the team has not received a final report. Segui, who had the surgery to repair a torn tendon and cartilage, is expected to miss 10-12 weeks.


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