Payton's Start Has An Impact

By Adam Kilgore
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 23, 2007

BALTIMORE, April 22 -- Jay Payton made his first start of the season Sunday in the Baltimore Orioles' 7-3 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays and wasted little time contributing. He ripped three singles and scored two runs, serving as the Orioles' offensive catalyst.

While his quick start back from a strained left hamstring was welcome, Payton's role will change. He batted leadoff, a spot that he will cede back to Brian Roberts once Roberts returns, probably Monday, from a stomach illness.

Payton's presence gives the team more versatility. As the Orioles shopped around for another outfielder this offseason, Payton was, "exactly what we were looking for," vice president Jim Duquette said. He can play anywhere in the outfield or bat anywhere in the lineup. As he showed Sunday, he can lead off, and last season in Oakland he batted behind Frank Thomas for protection.

Manager Sam Perlozzo said Payton will remain in left field but move lower in the lineup, adding depth to the order and pushing a capable outfielder, likely Jay Gibbons, to a bench role.

"When we left spring training, we envisioned that situation happening," Perlozzo said. "It's going to give us somebody off the bench who's going to be a good major league hitter."

Payton said after the game his hamstring felt fine, and it may have even helped him. "Your first game back, as athletes it peaks our concentration a little bit," Payton said.

Roberts Back

Roberts should return Monday, he said, after missing two games. He dressed Sunday and could have played if necessary, Perlozzo said. . . . Right-hander Jeremy Guthrie will make his first start of the season on Tuesday. Perlozzo said it would either be Guthrie or Brian Burres, but Burres pitched the ninth inning Sunday.

UP NEXT Tonight vs. Athletics7:05 p.m. Dan Haren (1-2) vs. Erik Bedard (3-1) MASN Tomorrow vs. Athletics3:05 p.m. Rich Harden (1-1) vs. Jeremy Guthrie (1-0) MASN

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