Notes: Lopez looking at first base
Veteran would like to ease catching schedule
BALTIMORE -- Three months from his 35th birthday, Javy Lopez knows his days are coming to a close as a full-time catcher. Tuesday was his 69th appearance behind the plate, and Lopez said he is feeling fresh as the season is winding down.Next year is the final year of his contract with the Orioles, and Lopez said Tuesday that he wants to limit his schedule behind the plate and begin to play first base when he is not catching. Lopez missed two months with a broken hand earlier this season, and he has been a designated hitter for a chunk of the second half. "I would really prefer not to be a designated hitter," Lopez said. "It's very hard to stay in the game. I would rather play first base; there I could still be part of the game and get a break from catching." Lopez complained of being overworked last season, when he caught 132 games and suggested to club officials that he try first base. In Spring Training, Lopez took ground balls and played a few innings at first base, but he did not convince club officials he was ready to play the position in a Major League game. Lopez played one inning at first earlier this season -- when the Orioles needed a replacement -- and he recorded a putout. "If you ask me the way I would want it, it would [be to] catch four days and then take a day off playing first base and then catch four days," he said. "I just want to be fresh for the whole season and be able to hit. But whatever they want me to do, I will do. I am just saying if it were my choice." Lopez always has been regarded as an offensive-minded catcher, and the Orioles want his bat in the middle of the lineup and would love a productive second catcher to log 60 or more games. But that search has been exhausting, and a reserve catcher could a free-agent focus in the offseason. Interim manager Sam Perlozzo said he is fine with Lopez playing first base, as long as he works arduously at it in the offseason, and not only Spring Training. "I would consider it if he would work at it and show that he can do it," Perlozzo said. "Then, he would be an option. It would be a way to get him in there without having to DH him. He could probably [learn] in the spring, but I would probably prefer that he got some kind of work in somewhere for a couple of weeks." The Orioles do not have a projected starter at first base next season, and players such as Walter Young and Jay Gibbons are candidates. "I just want to be able to extend my career," Lopez said. "I know if I keep catching every day that it's not going to last as long. But it's what I hope. But I will do whatever the team wants me to do." Palmeiro decision soon: Perlozzo said he wants the entire Rafael Palmeiro situation resolved soon, as there is still no word of when or if the troubled slugger will return to the Orioles lineup. Palmeiro is still rehabilitating his right knee and ankle injuries in Texas -- and he has indicated he wants to come back -- but Perlozzo is visibly tired of fielding questions about his status. Palmeiro has played in seven games since his 10-day suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs, the last being on Aug. 30 at Toronto. "I'm probably going to call [Palmeiro]; we're going to get into that a little bit and see what's going on," Perlozzo said. "Sooner or later, by the time it takes these guys to get ready, the time's going to be running out. So we need to know that pretty shortly. "[Palmeiro] knows that he's not going to play a lot if he does come back." The Associated Press reported that Congress is contacting friends of Palmeiro as it continues its investigation as to whether he lied under oath on March 17 when he said he never used steroids. Perlozzo said he wants to discuss matters with Palmeiro soon. "I would like to talk to Raffy, and I would like to see what his plans are for next year," Perlozzo said. "And what he expects to accomplish the rest of this year, and weigh those things together to see if he, I and the organization thinks it's the right way to go. I need to know what his status is. Is he ready to go? Does he expect to play a lot? I need to clear myself with him. "I don't want to sit here every day and have you ask me about Raffy. I want you to ask me about the ballclub. If you have to sit here and ask me about Raffy every day, then we're not accomplishing what we really want to accomplish." Coming up: The Orioles will take on the Yankees in the third game of a four-game series at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday. Right-hander Rodrigo Lopez (14-10, 4.86 ERA) will face left-hander Randy Johnson (14-8, 4.01 ERA). Johnson is 6-7 with a 4.34 ERA lifetime against the Orioles.
Gary Washburn is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.