Devereaux aggressively fights his way out of slump

May 18, 1991|By Kent Baker

Mike Devereaux was one of numerous Baltimore Orioles struggling at the plate when the team departed for the West Coast, but Devereaux found the antidote for his troubles in Anaheim, Calif., Oakland, Calif., and Seattle.

Now, he is one of the team's hottest hitters.

Devereaux batted .421 on the nine-game trip with four doubles, three home runs, six RBI and seven walks. Last night, he went 3-for-5, scored two runs, stole a career-high three bases and raised his average to .295.

"I feel comfortable and relaxed," said Devereaux, "I'm just trying not to do too much thinking."

Manager Frank Robinson said: "I don't want him to start thinking. I want him doing just what he's doing -- making solid contact and being sure of himself."

During a year of unsteadiness through most of the batting order, Devereaux's response to the leadoff position has been an asset for the Orioles.

They went to spring training without a clear idea of who would assume that role, but counted primarily on Devereaux because he would be a regular in center field.

"He had the inside track because Brady [Anderson] and [Joe] Orsulak didn't figure to be in there every day," said Robinson. "Off the way he finished last year [six homers in 27 games], Mike had the lead."

An excellent spring by Devereaux (.366 average, 16 runs scored, four homers) confirmed the Orioles' expectations.

"I've gotten back to the things I did in the minors," he said. "I'm trying to see the ball longer, look at more pitches. My goal is to get better pitches to hit and improve my on-base percentage."

Batting coach Tom McCraw said Devereaux, 28, has responded well to the lessons, is spreading the ball to all fields instead of trying to pull it constantly and is hitting with extreme confidence.

"Devo is not basically a leadoff hitter," said McCraw. "He could drive in 75 runs. We don't want to take away that aggression. But until we find one, he's doing an excellent job."

Devereaux has hit in practically every spot in the order during two previous seasons here and had a flair for home runs just inside the left-field foul pole.

But while he was turning on pitches occasionally, he also was vulnerable to the slider and fastball on the outside corner from right-handed pitchers.

"I wasn't hitting early this year, so I went back to my spring-training films," he said. "I saw what was going on and changed."

McCraw said Devereaux, like many players, had to learn that home runs will come naturally if the rudiments of hitting are followed.

"First you've got to become a good hitter," said McCraw. "Whatever power potential you have will come out. He'll get in a groove and scorch a ball probably 20 times a year. All of a sudden, the homers add up."

Devereaux added to his home-run numbers Tuesday night, rTC hitting his sixth of the year in the Orioles' 6-1 victory over the Oakland Athletics.

As the leadoff man, Devereaux won't have the pressure to produce power that is present down in the lineup. With his speed, he probably could collect a few more hits by bunting, but the Orioles are not going to try to adjust him while he is rolling.

"Let him play it his way," said McCraw. "When he's going like this, don't fix him."

The one thing that has been unpleasant is that Devereaux's surge has not done much to help the team win more.

"It would make me feel a lot better if we were winning," he said. "I just feel badly the way things have turned out for the team so far."

How Devereaux has fared

Pre-West Coast

Avg. ... R ... 2B ... HR ... RBI ... OBP

.196 ... 11 ...4 ... 2 ... 2 ... .297

Post-West Coast

.287 ... 17 ... 8 ... 5 ... 8 ... .370

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