- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 21, 2004

BALTIMORE — Javy Lopez was back in the Baltimore Orioles’ starting lineup last night, 48 hours after taking a rare day off because of lower back pain.

Lopez couldn’t swing a bat without cringing Wednesday, but he was much better yesterday afternoon after getting two days off and taking a generous dose of painkillers.

“I feel great now,” he said, hours before manning his customary spot behind the plate in the Orioles’ game against Toronto.

Lopez felt a twinge in his back in the latter stages of Tuesday night’s 11-0 loss to Oakland. He suspected the injury occurred either when he tried to block a pitch or while making a throw to second base.

By Wednesday, the pain was so intense that Lopez went into manager Lee Mazzilli’s office and asked for the night off. It was the fifth game he has missed this season.

Asked whether he would have preferred to serve as designated hitter last night, Lopez said, “I don’t want to play DH. If I’m going to play, I want to play catcher.”

The Orioles, who scored only six runs in getting swept in three games by Oakland, certainly wanted Lopez’s bat in the lineup — he hit .324 with six doubles, six homers and 18 RBI in his previous 21 games.

Olympic memories

Watching the Olympics on television conjures fond memories for Orioles outfielder B.J. Surhoff, who won a silver medal in 1984 as a member of the U.S. baseball team at the Los Angeles Games.

Participating in the opening ceremony, living in the Olympic village and hitting .303 for the U.S. team rank high among his most treasured experiences in sports.

“It’s right up there at the top,” he said. “Being in the opening ceremony, that was awesome. It was a big highlight, especially because it was in Los Angeles.”

The U.S. team didn’t qualify this year, but Surhoff has been enjoying the swimming competition. His wife was a world-class swimmer, and his children also have embraced the sport.

Surhoff was a sophomore at North Carolina when he participated in the Olympics. The NHL shuts down its season for two weeks to allow the pros to play in the Winter Olympics, and Surhoff would like to see major leaguers be permitted to go for the gold. But he knows it will never happen.

“The owners would have to give up a lot of money. That’s a lot to ask,” he said.

Majewski waits

After making a hurried trip from Pennsylvania to join the Orioles on Wednesday evening, rookie outfielder Val Majewski got a chance to get acclimated to the Baltimore clubhouse yesterday.

Majewski was summoned from Class AA Bowie when the Orioles put outfielder Larry Bigbie on the disabled list. He arrived just in time to see Baltimore lose 5-4. Majewski took early batting practice and was eager to make his major league debut.

“I’m just going to go through the motions and wait for my shot to get in and show what I can do,” he said. “I’m just happy to be here, happy to be a part of it.”

Majewski, who hit .307 with 15 homers and 79 RBI with Bowie, probably will get the chance to play during the weekend series against Toronto.

“I want to let him get used to the atmosphere around here,” Mazzilli said.

Running it up

Before taking the field for pregame practice, several Orioles gathered around a TV in front of pitcher Buddy Groom’s locker to watch the end of the Olympic 10-kilometer race.

Groom, Robert Machado, Todd Williams, Karim Garcia, pitching coach Ray Miller and ex-Oriole Jim Palmer watched runners from Ethiopia pull away to finish 1-2 in the race. The group was amazed at the pace, which was frenzied even before the runners went into their final kick.

“They’re running faster than I could ever run,” Miller said, “and they haven’t even started the sprint in the last lap yet.”

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