Albert Belle was back in the cleanup spot and back in right field for the Baltimore Orioles today, one day after being benched for the first time this season. Belle went 2 for 4, with a sharp ground-ball single to right in the first inning and a bloop single to center in the seventh. He also was intentionally walked once.
"Albert's a tremendous talent and we need to get him going," Manager Ray Miller said before today's 5-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves. "He's been close. Hopefully, a couple of days off will get him going."
Belle was benched Friday night in the team's first game since Wednesday night's verbal altercation between Belle and Miller in the dugout. Although the benching was clearly related to the incident, Miller said he hoped the day off would freshen Belle, whose average had dipped to .244 and who has one homer since May 16.
"It's not so much a physical thing," Miller said. "But mentally, sometimes just shutting things down and sitting back and watching a game can be helpful."
Belle has remained silent during his struggles at the plate, but on his Web site, he explains: "[S]ooner or later when the guys around me are hitting more, I'm going to start getting pitches and I'll start hitting the ball more, all of which will lead to more wins for the O's."
Perhaps Belle was not aware that the players who have batted around him most often this season, number three hitter B.J. Surhoff and number five hitter Harold Baines, are hitting .345 with 12 homers and .340 with 11 homers, respectively.
Rocky and a Hard Place
Miller said he and General Manager Frank Wren have discussed what to do with reliever Rocky Coppinger, who has made only three appearances since being recalled from Class AAA Rochester on May 22. The Orioles pulled Coppinger from Rochester's starting rotation in order to keep some live arms in their bullpen, but the lack of work might have a negative effect on him.
"I would like to think I could get that 94-95 [mph fastball] coming out of the bullpen," Miller said. "The last time, he had it, but he didn't throw anything off-speed, and he got whacked. His numbers aren't good, but the talent's there. We've talked about switching [Coppinger] with somebody else, but it's the same scenario with someone else. . . .
"I'd like to get Rocky going. We're seeing a strong enough arm, but the results aren't there. What bothers me about Rocky is he's always up [in the strike zone]. But he's been working on that." . . .
Brady Anderson's homer to right in the top of the first inning marked the fourth time this season and the 33rd time in his career he has led off the game with a home run.