Notes: Millar trying to find his groove
Off to slow start this spring, O's veteran working on swing
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The pitcher doesn't matter. Kevin Millar has seen multiple arms in his first two Spring Training games, but he hasn't been able to solve any of them. The veteran started at designated hitter in each of his first two games and has gone 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. So far, his only "hit" is a hit-by-pitch.
"Right now, everything looks fast. Always, in the first week, the pitchers are ahead -- at least for me, personally," he said Saturday at Fort Lauderdale Stadium. "We faced live pitchers twice, so the last time you've seen live pitching in the box was October. If I had winter ball in Beaumont, Texas, I'd have been playing winter ball, too."
Millar struck out against both Florida's Dontrelle Willis and Jose Garcia on Friday afternoon. The veteran said that Garcia, a candidate for the fifth starter's slot, looked just as good as Willis, the National League's Rookie of the Year in 2003. Then again, at this point, Millar's just trying to get comfortable in the batter's box.
"Right now, it's just seeing pitches," he said. "Seeing fastballs, seeing curveballs, seeing a slider."
Millar participated in outfield drills recently and said he expects to work out there intermittently for the rest of Spring Training. He did the same thing last year, but wound up playing exclusively at first base during the season. Now, with Aubrey Huff and Jay Gibbons vying for time at first, Millar's situation may or may not be different.
"I played the outfield a lot last spring. I thought for sure I'd play the outfield during the season, because they were saying the same things about me and Jeff Conine, flip-flopping us here and there," Millar said. "That's part of the gig this Spring Training, because we've got five guys that play the same positions. I don't know which way they're going to go, but that's not my concern. My concern is just staying healthy and getting in the groove."
Saturday was an easy work day for Millar, who spent the early morning taking batting practice and said he negotiated with Baltimore manager Sam Perlozzo for the privilege of skipping one of the spring's longest trips.
"This is the trip you don't want to make. It's six hours in a car for three at-bats," he said. "I'll sit out here and hit for two hours instead. You pick one of the Fort Myers trips to go on, so it evens out. Sammy told me, 'You're off this one, but you've got to go on the Fort Myers trip.' That's fair."
Hip check: Paul Shuey took the mound for the first time of the spring season Friday and pitched a scoreless inning against the Marlins. Shuey is attempting to come back after a premature retirement caused by a persistent pain in his right hip, and he had four surgeries to correct the problem and return to the mound.
Shuey said it felt strange to pitch again, but he was glad he had the chance to compete.
"The way I look at it, I threw two curveballs [and] they were both junk," he said. "The fastball, I located on two of the three, and then the rest of the time I was throwing split-fingers down the middle and making them hit it.
"I didn't want to have to go to that so fast. But it was very positive, because I was able to get through that first one and get it under my belt. Hopefully, in the next one I can go out and command my pitches a little better."
Shuey said he'd like to throw on back-to-back days sometime soon and expressed the belief that pitching more often would help him sharpen his control. The hip seemed to be the least of his concerns -- at least for now. Perlozzo wasn't sure when Shuey would pitch again, but he was pleased with what he saw the first time out.
"It was his first time back in a long time," he said Friday. "It was good to see a man of his caliber go through what he's gone through and get back on the mound and do what he did. I'm sure he had some butterflies."
First look: Huff started his first game as an Oriole on Friday and stroked a pair of opposite-field singles. Huff, a former Devil Ray, started at first base and batted behind shortstop Miguel Tejada. Perlozzo will likely stick to that construction for much of the year, and he recalled how he felt when he managed against Huff.
"He always worried me when I brought a left-hander in to face him," he said. "I knew he was no easy out. He scared me out there no matter what we had out there. We need that kind of guy."
Quotable: "We're talking about practice? Is that what we're doing? We're talking about practice? The first two games?" -- Millar, channeling Allen Iverson when asked to critique his first two games
Coming up: The Orioles return to Fort Lauderdale on Sunday for a 1:05 p.m. ET game and will send Jaret Wright to the hill for his spring debut. Wright will face off against the Mets, the defending National League East champions.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.