- The Washington Times - Monday, March 8, 2004

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Lee Mazzilli’s assertion the Baltimore Orioles were going to use speed to supplement newly arrived power in 2004 didn’t go unnoticed.

Rookie outfielder Tim Raines Jr. hopes his knack for dashing around the bases plays right into his new manager’s expectations.

“Speed, stolen bases, playing defense — that’s my specialty, that’s the kind of player I am,” Raines said. “If that’s what he’s looking for, I fit that description. There just has to be room for me to show them.”

Raines has made a strong case in spring training, ignoring a crowded outfield in hopes of opening some eyes. After going 0-for-4 in the Orioles’ 14-5 defeat of Los Angeles yesterday, Raines’ average dropped to .400

His three stolen bases lead the Orioles — a club long known for clogging the basepaths — and have made Mazzilli take notice. In six minor-league seasons, Raines swiped 305 bases.

“We know he can run,” Mazzilli said. “But I didn’t realize how fast he was until I got to see him in person.”

The addition of sluggers shortstop Miguel Tejada, first baseman Rafael Palmeiro and catcher Javy Lopez — who combined for 108 home runs and 326 RBI last year — bolstered a lineup lacking power. But the Orioles still needs table-settlers.

That’s where Raines — the son of former major leaguer Tim Raines, who stole 808 bases and was a four-time National League steals leader during his 23-year career — could carve out a niche.

“When his dad played, he was the kind of guy who could create a lot of distractions,” Mazzilli said of the elder Raines. “We think Tim [Jr.] can be that same kind of player — the kind of guy who gets on base, creates distractions and make things happen.”

Raines likes that job description.

“That’s the start of everything — getting to first base. That’s when everything happens. That’s when I go to work,” he said.

Creating havoc is one thing. Creating an opportunity is another.

Unless injured center fielder Luis Matos is sidelined for an extended period, Raines may be ticketed for Class AAA Ottawa, where he hit .299 with 37 steals in 52 games last year. He was promoted to the Lynx after hitting .308 with 40 swipes in 66 games at Class AA Bowie.

With Matos out pending the results of a bone scan on his injured right shin, Raines played left field against the Dodgers. Larry Bigbie, expected to play in left this year, moved to center.

The Orioles have Jay Gibbons in right, and to stay in the majors Raines will have to beat out veteran B.J. Surhoff and Jack Cust, who is out of minor-league options.

“You can never control what they think. You can only control what you do. All you can do is to go out and play,” Raines said. “Everyone knows there’s a set lineup, but … I can’t be anyone else. I can only be myself.”

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