- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 3, 2004

BALTIMORE — Baltimore Orioles second baseman Jerry Hairston was held out of an intrasquad game yesterday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., because of questions raised by his preseason physical.

Hairston planned to undergo an EKG and take a stress test. An EKG is a test that records electrical activity of the heart. It can determine if there is an irregular heartbeat or a decreased blood supply to the heart.

Hairston practiced with the team but was scratched from the four-inning scrimmage as a precaution.

“Obviously, he’s not limited as to what he can do,” Orioles vice president Jim Beattie said. “It’s just a followup. They just kind of want to get a definition of what’s going on.”

Hairston has been experiencing flu-like symptoms and discomfort in his chest. But he expects to be in the lineup today when the Orioles open their exhibition schedule against the World Series champion Florida Marlins at Fort Lauderdale Stadium.

“I’m playing tomorrow. That’s my plan,” Hairston said.

Hairston suspected the Orioles’ caution was due in part to the death last year of Baltimore pitcher Steve Bechler, who died of heatstroke after collapsing during a practice in February.

“I guess because of what happened last year, we’re being extra cautious. I don’t really blame them,” Hairston said.

However, Beattie said, “I don’t think we’re doing anything differently this year than we’ve done in the past because of that. We’re cautious as a matter of operating procedure.”

Hairston is competing for the regular second base job with Brian Roberts, who has been sidelined for days with back spasms but hopes to return tomorrow.

“I’m pretty much full go,” Roberts said. “I get this like once or twice a year. We’re just taking longer because it’s spring training.”

Roberts knows that Hairston’s ailment is potentially far more serious.

“When you’re dealing with a heart problem, that’s nothing to play around with,” he said. “It stinks that we’re both sitting out.”

Opening day, sort of

The exhibition opener marks the informal beginning of Lee Mazzilli’s tenure as Orioles manager, but he downplayed the significance of the game yesterday.

“You want to see the guys, you want to see how the players react to certain situations,” Mazzilli said. “That’s really my concern; wins and losses are not the thing down here for me.”

Deciding who will start at second base, building his starting rotation and forming his 25-man roster is what really counts.

“We’ve got a lot of decisions to make, which is good,” he said.

Still, the game could be the first in which Mazzilli and newcomers Javy Lopez, Miguel Tejada and Rafael Palmeiro operate in the same lineup.

“It will be fun to have them all out there. Who knows what the starting lineup will look like?” Beattie said. “But as we get through spring training, it will be fun to see how it all comes together.”

Making the pitch

Pitching prospect Adam Loewen pitched a scoreless inning in the intrasquad game, capping the performance by striking out Clay Bellinger with a sharp-looking changeup.

“It had a little bite to it,” Mazzilli said.

Mazzilli said ace Sidney Ponson will start in the exhibition opener against Florida; Omar Daal will start tomorrow against the Marlins and Rodrigo Lopez on Saturday against the Montreal Expos.

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