Devereaux adds muscle to leadoff

May 05, 1991|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Sun Staff Correspondent

ANAHEIM, CALIF — ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Mike Devereaux spent spring training re-establishing himself as the Baltimore Orioles' everyday leadoff man, but he has spent the first month of the regular season on a power trip.

Why else would his slugging percentage (.525) be more than twice as high as his batting average (.246)? But no one was complaining after his four-hit performance helped the club score a 2-0 victory over the California Angels on Friday night at Anaheim Stadium.

"Mike is capable of that," manager Frank Robinson said. "We've been looking for him to get started, because he's going to hit better than he has been. He had a fantastic night."

Devereaux came into the game batting just .196, but he hit the ball hard in five consecutive at-bats and came away with a home run, two doubles and a single. Even the one out he made sent Angels center fielder Junior Felix to the warning track in center field.

The Orioles had hoped that this year would see Devereaux become a more selective hitter and raise his on-base percentage, which in 1990 was the lowest among the club's everyday players. He came into Friday night's game ranked ninth on the club in that department, but improved significantly with one 4-for-5 performance.

Still, it has to be considered a mixed blessing that 10 of his first 15 hits have been for extra bases.

"Mike is going to hit for a better average," Robinson said, "but he's also going to hit for some power. He's capable of that."

Right-hander Ben McDonald couldn't have cared less how Devereaux got the job done. He just needed somebody to do something before his best performance of the young season went to waste.

The Angels could manage just two singles off McDonald, who was removed after throwing 78 pitches in the longest of his three 1991 appearances. The Orioles had only two hits that made any difference -- bases-empty home runs by Devereaux and Sam Horn that sent Angels starter Kirk McCaskill to his third loss in five decisions.

The Orioles had 10 hits, five of them for extra bases, but they scored three runs or fewer for the fourth straight game. They have won the past two with great pitching and defense, not to mention a number of strong performances out of the bullpen.

Relievers Mark Williamson, Mike Flanagan and Gregg Olson complemented a strong performance by Jose Mesa in Wednesday night's 2-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners, and the same three followed McDonald to the mound to secure last night's decision. Olson pitched the ninth to record his fourth save in four save opportunities.

Robinson was saying just the other day that his club needed one good run through the rotation to pull out of a lengthy slump. He was halfway there when Jeff Robinson took the mound last night for the second game of the series.

It took McDonald a couple of batters to get oriented, but it didn't take him long to get back on top of his game after two mediocre performances sent his ERA skyrocketing to 12.27.

He walked Luis Polonia to open the Angels first and gave up a sharp single to second baseman Luis Sojo, but was bailed out of a potentially damaging situation by either right fielder Joe Orsulak or third-base umpire Durwood Merrill. It depends on who you talk to.

Orsulak had to range toward the right field line to backhand Sojo's single, then spun around and threw a perfect strike that reached third base at about the same time as Polonia. Merrill ruled that the ball got there first. Angels manager Doug Rader argued that the tag was late, but he always seems to be on the wrong end of the argument when the Orioles are involved.

It was a very important out. McDonald got out of trouble and did not give up another hit until the Sojo single with two out in the sixth inning, which is not bad for a guy who gave up 10 earned runs and 15 hits in his first 7 1/3 innings of work this year.

"When Joe got me out of that jam, it was a real confidence builder," McDonald said. "I was able to go out and get some outs after. Each time out, I've felt more comfortable. I felt much better tonight. I felt like I got in a groove tonight."

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