The art of the scoop: D. Lee is making all the plays at first base

There is a lot more to the game of baseball than offense and Derrek Lee is an example of that right now with the Orioles.

They don’t keep a stat for “runs saved” or “errors saved” but if they did, Lee would rank high in that category. He seems to have an amazing ability to scoop low throws out of the dirt and he has done it multiple times already for several O’s infielders.

The Orioles, of course, have had some good fielding first baseman over the years like Boog Powell and Eddie Murray, who won three Gold Gloves. Lee is a three-time winner of the award, picking up the gold in 2003, 2005 and 2007.

“He’s made our infielders so much better,” O’s manager Buck Showalter said today. “You see how confident they feel in releasing the ball quickly. I’ll tell you, he has impacted us defensively and he takes a lot of pride in it. He sticks his nose right down on those throws and he’s a big guy. Some guys with a throw where there may be contact with the runners, most guys bail. He’s pretty special. A special defender.”

Third baseman Mark Reynolds said Lee’s solid glove work does instill confidence in the other infielders when they throw the ball his way.

“No doubt. Tough balls we get to, we know if we just can throw it to the area, he has a great chance of picking us up. It’s a nice luxury to have him over there. You want to hit him in the chest every time, but you know there are some tough plays where you have to throw it and he can pick you up,” Reynolds said.

“It’s nice to have him on our team and it boosts our confidence. Some guys are just gifted over there and he’s a Gold Glover,” he added.

Showalter recalled a play in Cleveland that Lee didn’t make. Then he remembered that he was dealing with a bloody nose and watery eyes at that moment. Showalter knows, at a time like now when Lee is trying to get his bat going, he can still help the Orioles.

“You know other than the catcher, the first baseball handles the ball as much as anybody but the pitcher. It doesn’t matter where the ball is hit, Lee can impact the game. We missed him in spring training when he was going through some problems physically. You can see when we were doing drills on defense then, how much pride he takes in it,” Lee said.

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