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Matos wins Player of the Week
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07/21/2003  7:48 PM ET 
Matos wins Player of the Week
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In four games following the All-Star Break, Matos was 9-for-15 (.600). (Tim Sharp/AP)
BALTIMORE -- Orioles' management was probably hoping Luis Matos would not struggle after being rushed into the center field role in May.

What they have witnessed the past two months is a prospect flourishing into Major League stardom. Matos has stunned the organization with his production, cementing himself as the Orioles' starting center fielder for years to come.

And on Monday, Matos was honored with what the Orioles hope is the first of many awards. He was named the American League Pepsi Player of the Week.

In four games with Anaheim following the All-Star Break, Matos was 9-for-15 (.600), with six runs scored, a home run, five RBIs and an .867 slugging percentage. He had his first Major League four-hit game in Sunday's 7-6 win over the Angels.

"It's kind of exciting to be elected for that at this level," said Matos. "I've been there in the minors and everything, but in the big leagues is more special. It's nice to hear that."

Matos has been exactly what team officials expected defensively, using his speed and superior arm to improve the outfield defense. But Matos has pleasantly surprised coaches with his hitting prowess.

Before this season, Matos, 24, was a career .212 hitter in 120 Major League games. Many officials believe he was fast-tracked during the Orioles' youth movement and was not ready for the Major Leagues. But in 2003, Matos is hitting .364 in 47 games, with seven homers and 23 RBI.

If Matos, who was recalled from Triple-A Ottawa on May 23, had played a full 162-game season, he would be on a 247-hit pace. His on-base percentage is .408, and he also has added 10 doubles and 43 runs.

"I don't even look at (my numbers)," Matos said. "I just want to keep going and maybe I can go higher. Because we're hitting pretty good as a team and I know if I can get on base I can score runs for this team."

When the Orioles placed Gary Matthews Jr. on waivers in May, center field was expected to be an area team management filled in the offseason, Now, with Matos fully established, the club is no longer looking at potential free agent center fielders.

"I think it's great for Luis," Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said. "It shows you how far he has come. It's always good when one of your players gets an award like that."

Gary Washburn is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.



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