Notes: Albers trying to beef up arsenal

Notes: Albers out to beef up arsenal

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The Orioles will start tinkering with Matt Albers on Wednesday, when the right-hander works on his curveball with pitching coach Rick Kranitz. Baltimore wants Albers to start concentrating on pounding hitters with fastballs and sinkers, a plan designed to maximize his ability to pitch to contact and induce ground balls.

Albers, who has used his curveball as an out-pitch in the past, said that he plans on adjusting to however the Orioles want him to go after hitters. He also said that his curveball will still be a key pitch when the regular season rolls around.

"I've got a bullpen tomorrow, and we talked about working on my curveball," he said. "That's a pitch I feel comfortable with, but so far this spring, I haven't been. That's one of the pitches that kind of comes last."

"He throws the sinker, but the secondary stuff is what he needs to work on a little bit," said Kranitz. "A lot of times you need to start from scratch, work on the spin and go from there. It's just him not getting a feel for it -- that's all it is."

Albers, who was acquired from Houston in the December trade for shortstop Miguel Tejada, is expected to be a prime candidate for a long-relief job this spring. His chances were improved somewhat when Troy Patton -- his teammate in Houston and again now with Baltimore -- was shut down temporarily with persistent pain in his pitching shoulder.

Patton is expected to undergo an arthrogram -- a joint X-ray using a contrast dye -- later in the week and may eventually have season-ending surgery. If he does, that would re-open the battle for the fifth-starter's slot to a wider field. Albers said he doesn't know how the Orioles expect to use him yet and said he'd be fine contributing as either a starter or a relief pitcher.

"I think it's normal anywhere you go," he said of the indecision. "I don't think they know exactly yet. You've got to wait until the end of spring and see how it shakes out. They don't have to make a decision yet anyway, so there's no reason to rush."

Swinging it: Third baseman Melvin Mora finished Tuesday's game with three hits, including two for extra bases. Mora doubled in the first inning, drilled a two-run homer in the second and delivered a run-scoring single later in the game.

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"I want to go back to 2004," he said, noting the year he hit for a career-high average (.340). "I don't believe in bad luck. I've had a great year every year, but it doesn't mean I'm going to hit .340 every year. As long as you drive in runs, I'll be happy."

Bumps and bruises: Freddie Bynum left the facility early on Tuesday to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging test on his right knee. The utilityman has been limited in recent days and isn't sure when he'll be able to return.

"I'm just going to get it checked out to make sure nothing's seriously wrong," he said. "It's precautionary more than anything else. ... I think it's just soreness, but you have to find out what's really wrong with it instead of assuming something."

Dotted line: In a story first reported by the Baltimore Sun, right fielder Nick Markakis had his contract extended on Tuesday afternoon. Markakis, who has two strong seasons with the Orioles under his belt, was reportedly granted a modest raise (from $400,000 to $455,000) and will be eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2008 season.

Flu shots: The Orioles lost another member of their team to illness on Tuesday, when outfielder Chris Roberson was forced home in the early afternoon. Fellow outfielder Jay Payton and hitting coach Terry Crowley are also ill.

Cuts: Baltimore sent three coaches -- Denny Walling, Alex Arias and Butch Davis -- to the team's Minor League complex in Sarasota, Fla. Baltimore manager Dave Trembley said that the first player cuts will follow shortly thereafter, but he said he's not sure how many players will be involved or how prominent they may be in terms of future prospects.

"I'll meet with [president of baseball operations Andy] MacPhail [on Wednesday] morning," he said of the decision-making process. "These guys have played very well, though. They're getting a lot of at-bats, too."

Quotable "They want me to go ahead and throw a lot of fastballs. ... Use the fastball a lot, go after guys with the sinker and make them hit that." -- Albers, verbalizing what the Orioles want him to do

Up next: The Orioles and Marlins will play their third game of the spring on Wednesday, and Baltimore will send Steve Trachsel to the mound for his second start. Baltimore and Florida will play seven times.

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.