Millar on Baltimore: 'I Want to Be Here'

AP Sports Writer
Tuesday, July 17, 2007

BALTIMORE (AP) -- Kevin Millar would rather help the Baltimore Orioles become a winner than join a club that already is one.

As the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline nears, it's a sure bet the Orioles will be fielding offers for Millar, a playoff-tested veteran who's as valuable in the clubhouse as he is at the plate.

If the Orioles deal Millar to a contender, the 35-year-old first baseman would be playing significant games in August and September for the first time since his days with the Boston Red Sox in 2003-05.

But if it was up to him, Millar would stay with the fourth-place Orioles.

"My thoughts are, I want to be here. I love this group of guys. I think we can really have a nice second half these next 70-plus games," he said. "I want to be a part of that."

Millar has gone 27-for-70 (.386) since June 14 to raise his batting average from .238 to .286. Under manager Sam Perlozzo, Millar saw sporadic playing time and was used primarily in the lower third of the batting order. Now he's batting cleanup for interim manager Dave Trembley and toting a robust .462 slugging percentage.

"I've established some playing time consistently, and I'm doing what I'm capable of doing," Millar said. "So maybe I can stay here and be an Oriole."

Under Trembley, Millar has become an everyday player in Baltimore. There are no assurances that role would continue if he was traded to another club.

"Your situation doesn't always improve. You don't always go to a World Series contender," Millar said. "That's what happens in a perfect world. But a lot of those teams are already situated at certain positions."

Even if a first-place team with a need came calling, Millar would prefer to stay put.

"If a contending team has an injury happen in the next week and they ask me if I want to be an everyday first baseman, that's an opportunity," he said. "But I'm an Oriole and I want to be a part of making this organization better."

Andy MacPhail, the newly appointed president of baseball operations, will have the final say in the matter. But Trembley would like nothing better than to continue to pencil Millar into the starting lineup.

"He's got experience playing on winning teams. More importantly, he rises to the occasion. He likes the challenge of being the guy," Trembley said. "I certainly appreciate and like what Millar does for us. He's been great. I hope he stays."

Millar was an integral part of the Boston team that reached the playoffs in 2003 and won the World Series in 2004. He played often, raised the spirits in the clubhouse and averaged 85 RBIs.

Now in the midst of his second straight one-year contract with Baltimore, he has yet to establish an identity as an Oriole. The problem is that for much of the time, he has been platooned at first base, left field and designated hitter.

"I never had a chance to be Kevin here. The first half last year it was Javy Lopez, Jeff Conine, Kevin Millar, blah blah. Then the second half I got a chance to play and hit," Millar said. "This year, same thing. Jay Payton, Aubrey Huff, Jay Gibbons, Kevin Millar. Then I get a chance to play, and I'm hitting."

All he wants is for Trembley to put him in the lineup on a daily basis. Millar will take care of the rest.

"Take advantage of what you have here. Allow me to be somewhat of a leader. Allow me to be the hitter I want to be. Allow me to be that guy," he said. "It's hard to be that guy when you play and then sit. They say, 'Oh yeah, he's older.' I'm not. I want to play a lot more years in this game, and I want to be part of this club and help this team and organization go to the next level."

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