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Belle Throws First Spring Fit

Albert Belle ended his calm, uneventful spring training Thursday with a tirade in the Baltimore Orioles clubhouse in which he angrily threw his glove, two bats and his helmet into his locker.

Belle also scattered several letters that were sitting on his chair. He then quickly undressed, showered and stormed out of the clubhouse without exchanging a word with any of his teammates.

The tirade occurred after a questionable third-strike call in the sixth inning of the Orioles' 4-2 exhibition victory over the New York Mets. The strikeout ended an 0-for-3 day that left him at 3-for-13 (.231) this spring.

Belle, who signed a five-year contract with the Orioles on Dec. 1, had been quite civil during spring training despite his well-documented confrontations with fans, umpires and opposing ballplayers.

Shortly after arriving early to camp in February, Belle addressed the media twice in three days. He also made a point of signing dozens of autographs before and after the Orioles' exhibition games.

He signed autographs before Thursday's game, too.

But the dormant volcano finally erupted after a check-swing strikeout against Greg McMichael. On his way to the clubhouse, Belle muttered to himself as he stormed past players in the dugout.

He then shattered one of his bats during the tirade, which occurred in front of a few teammates and a handful of reporters waiting to talk to pitcher Mike Mussina.

"He was just mad at himself, just like when he gets mad at people when they ask him questions," manager Ray Miller said. "It shows me he wants to hit and that he demands excellence from himself. There's nothing wrong with that; I just told (clubhouse attendant) Jimmy Tyler to stay out of the way."

Orioles reliever Jesse Orosco, who was in the clubhouse at the time, avoided Belle before walking back onto the field. Orosco later said the demonstration was simply a prime example of Belle's competitive nature.

Albert Belle's bat did not break over the plate Thursday, but in the clubhouse.>
Albert Belle's bat did not break over the plate Thursday, but in the clubhouse. (AP)

"He took an oh-fer. As long as he doesn't hurt anybody, no problem," Orosco said. "He wants to perform well in every game, even in the spring. That's just the type of intensity he takes the ballpark. I think he figures the only way he can get tuned up for the regular season is by playing every game s if it means something."

After the game, the Orioles announced they no longer will open the clubhouse to reporters while exhibition games are in progress.

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