Notes: O's face the unknown

Notes: O's face the unknown

NEW YORK -- How do you hit a pitcher when you don't know what he throws? That was the question that confronted the Orioles on Saturday, when they faced off against New York's Kei Igawa for the first time.

Igawa was pitching his first game outside of Japan's Central League, and Baltimore went to face him without any video highlights and with only the faintest idea of what the southpaw throws and how he likes to approach certain situations. Armed with a basic scouting report, the Orioles reduced the game to its most basic elements.

"It helps a little bit to have video, but it's not the end of the world that we don't have it. We'll figure him out," said hitting coach Terry Crowley in the hours before the game. "We'll just go into it with basic knowledge of what he throws and what he wants to do. But there's nothing like facing him yourself and making your own decisions."

As far as Baltimore is concerned, Igawa presents a unique situation. The Orioles will face rookies at some point in the season that they've never faced before, but they'll have an accurate report based on Triple-A results. By contrast, the team's only info on Igawa was written in Spring Training, when the left-hander was still working into shape.

Since Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka doesn't debut against Baltimore, the Orioles will have plenty of time to acquaint themselves with video of his first few starts. With Igawa, they have to just see the ball and hit the ball.

"Our advance people have seen his different pitches and his velocity," Crowley said. "But there's an awful lot of the ballgame in which you make adjustments as you go along. These guys are all terrific athletes, they're smart and they face a top pitcher every single day. It's not four or five days out of seven -- every day, it's a top guy."

"He's new, but the flip side is he hasn't seen us either," added Kevin Millar. "The advantage [is] usually to the pitcher, but we've just got to read the reports on his throwing from Spring Training. I heard he doesn't throw hard, but I've heard he's got a really good slider -- like an invisible slider. You've got to make him throw strikes."

New York's media relations staff estimated that 75 Japanese reporters -- including both print and television -- were on hand for Igawa's debut, which was marred by a solo homer from Nick Markakis in the first inning. Baltimore also loaded the bases in the second inning, lending credence to the team's belief about facing pitchers for the first time.

"I think the guys do that all the time when young kids come up from the Minor Leagues and pitch," said Baltimore manager Sam Perlozzo. "He's got the same thing to worry about with us -- he doesn't know us very well."

Left out: Millar got slotted in left field for the first time since the 2005 season on Saturday, but he correctly pointed out that he's had quite a bit of experience in that spot. Millar had played 193 games in left field during his career, which is more time than he's spent in right field (170), designated hitter (77) or third base (28).

"Last year was the first year I didn't play any, so it's not like it's a foreign object or anything," he said. "I played a lot of right field [in Boston] when [Trot] Nixon would go down and played a lot of left field with the Marlins because we had Derrek Lee. It's really not a big deal, it's just that I haven't played an inning [in a while]."

Since he hasn't played left field as an Oriole, Millar obliged the media by providing a brief scouting report.

"This is a big left field, so I'm going to play a little deeper than the average guy with the blazing speed," he said in regards to his positioning. "Arm-strength, I'll hit the cut-off man and throw to the right base. I'm going to make your routine plays and use two hands on fly balls. I won't hurt you out there. Hopefully."

Official leave: Bench coach Tom Trebelhorn left the team Thursday to be with his ailing wife, who is recovering from an aneurysm. Perlozzo said he's not sure when he'll be back, but he's hoping to see him for Monday's home opener at Camden Yards. But if plans change, Perlozzo said the coach's family will take precedent.

"I'd like to tell you that I think he'll be here on a regular basis, but that's a very delicate situation when he needs to be home at certain times to take care of his wife," he said. "We feel comfortable with Dave Trembley in the dugout. I think we have some people in the pen that can take care of that. We'll work through it as long as we can."

Best defense: Perlozzo said he's not concerned about shortstop Miguel Tejada, who made a rare double-error Friday night and had a few questionable defensive plays in Minnesota.

"I don't necessarily know if he's working his way in, he's had a couple of weird plays happen to him," he said. "I totally expect Miguel to play good defense for us and probably play better than last year. He's in much better shape than what he started the season with [last year]. I look forward for him helping us a lot over there."

Quotable: "When I was there, the biggest thing I had to get used to was guys throwing from the side and guys throwing a lot of trick pitches. You became a better breaking ball hitter. They seem to be coming over here with a little more power pitching [now]." -- Perlozzo, on his days as a player in Japan

Coming up: The Orioles and Yankees will play a Sunday series finale to their three-game set at 1:05 p.m. ET. Baltimore will start staff ace Erik Bedard, and New York will counter with rookie Darrell Rasner.

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