- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 6, 2003

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) Before he could start thinking about facing American League hitters and pitching in different ballparks, Kerry Ligtenberg had to adjust to the sensation of not being part of the Atlanta Braves.
Ligtenberg spent his entire career in the Braves' organization before signing as a free agent with the Baltimore Orioles in January. When the right-handed reliever showed up at spring training camp, virtually everyone around him was a stranger.
"You always know you're going to go to a different team at some point," he said. "It was a little strange, sort of like the first day of school, because I didn't really know anybody on the team."
Ligtenberg, 31, has blended in well. He's made a few friends, impressed the coaching staff and is fully prepared to become a major contributor to the Baltimore bullpen.
"You want to come in and make a good impression, you want to do well," he said. "That hasn't changed. I'm excited to get going and get ready for the season."
Ligtenberg signed with Atlanta as a free agent in June 1996, and was pitching for the Braves by the end of the following season. During his time in Atlanta, the Braves participated in five division series and three league championship series.
Now, after going 3-4 with a 2.97 ERA for the 2002 National League East champions, he's part of a team that is trying to snap a string of five straight losing seasons.
"I was with the same team for five or six years, where we had pretty much the same guys and it was pretty much a given that we were going to be playing in October," he said. "But nowadays, teams can be more competitive with less payroll, and I think there's a chance this team can be really competitive. It will be a very interesting year, something different for me. I'll see a lot of different cities."
Ligtenberg, 31, is a right-handed setup man who can double as a closer. With 44 career saves and a 3.05 ERA, he probably could have found a contender to latch onto.
So why the Orioles?
"They really wanted me to pitch here. Other teams were interested, but it wasn't quite the same interest," Ligtenberg said. "That's what I was looking for, an opportunity to pitch and to try and help this team win."
Ligtenberg got his first game action yesterday, allowing six hits and four runs in 1⅓ innings during the Orioles' 10-6 victory over the Boston Red Sox.
It was an awful performance, but it hardly mattered.
"Kerry was doing something mechanically wrong on the mound. He'll be fine," Hargrove said. "That's the first time we've seen him up all spring. You'd rather see him dominate, but if that's going to happen, you'd rather see it happen here than in April."
Notes Sidney Ponson pitched three scoreless innings and Brian Roberts homered in a five-run second in the Orioles' victory over the Red Sox. Deivi Cruz went 3-for-3 with three RBI, and Jay Gibbons also homered for the Orioles. …
Third baseman Tony Batista did not play yesterday because of a sore knee, however, the injury does not appear to be serious. He will not play today against the Dodgers.


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