- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 20, 2003

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. Jeff Reboulet has made a decent living as a utility infielder, extending his major league career far beyond its expected life span despite spending much of his time in the dugout.
"I'm sure if I was a starter, I'd have been out of the game three or four years ago," he said. "It's kept me around."
Now, however, Reboulet has reached the point where his advancing age (38) and diminishing skills have put him in a precarious position. Although he remains solid in the field, his bid to make the Baltimore Orioles' Opening Day roster has been dulled by his .154 batting average this spring.
"I'm playing good defense, I'm very capable of that. But the offense has been slow," he conceded. "I'm getting a lot of tough calls seems like every pitch is on the corner and I'm not getting a lot of quality at-bats."
Reboulet showed signs of snapping the slump with two hits Monday against the New York Mets. Also working in his favor is a quality track record over 11 seasons, including three with the Orioles in the late 1990s.
"We know Reb pretty good. He's a professional player, he's in the mix," Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said. "It's going to be one of those things that will probably go down to the end."
Melvin Mora, who can play shortstop, second base and the outfield, is a shoo-in. Reboulet's main competition is John Valentin, who has more power but is not as proficient with the glove.
"Johnny is a different player than I am," Reboulet said. "He's more of a stick and a corner guy, while I'm an on-base guy. It's not hard to decide, one or the other. It's kind of, what is the team looking for? I'm hoping I can do enough to attract them to me."
Which means he's got to improve at the plate.
"I need to hit," Reboulet said. "They know what you can do, but if you haven't done anything all spring, that's not good. I need to show them in the next week or so that I can still hit the ball."
Early in his career, Reboulet received the opportunity to start for the Minnesota Twins, but a disastrous slump at the plate ended the run after a month. Instead of brooding, he made himself into a solid backup capable of playing three infield positions.
"It never bothered me being a utility player as long as I was in the big leagues. As I got older, I just adapted to it and accepted it," he said.
The challenge now is to keep a good thing going.
"I can't say I don't think about it. I know I can still play, but I've got to show them," Reboulet said. "All I ask is a chance to prove I can play, and I've gotten that here. I just haven't made the best of it yet."
Two years ago, Reboulet was a long shot to make the Los Angeles Dodgers out of spring training. But he ended up leading the team's pinch hitters with a .368 batting average and stuck around through last season.
"I don't think L.A. even wanted me, but I ended up making the team because of a couple of injuries," he said. "Then I made the most of it."
After being released by the Dodgers over the winter, Reboulet figured he would be a good fit in Baltimore and signed a minor league contract Jan.30.
Even if things don't work out with the Orioles, he has hopes of latching on with another team.
"I can still pick it, I can still hit, I still do the same things I've done before," he said. "My speed isn't what it was 10 years ago, but I can still run a little bit. You kind of know when you're done, but I don't think I'm there yet."
Notes Hargrove has formally named Rodrigo Lopez his starting pitcher on Opening Day against Cleveland. … The Orioles were off yesterday. They resume play today against the Cardinals in Jupiter, Fla.

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