DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Rule V draftee Darrell Sherman apparently has dropped out of the leadoff competition, but manager John Oates says that a bad habit he developed at the plate may have kept him from showing the club what he can do.
Sherman, who has two singles in 24 exhibition at-bats (.083), recently made an adjustment in his batting stance, moving his hands farther from his chest, but it's probably too late to persuade the Orioles to keep him on the major-league roster.
"I don't think we've seen Darrell Sherman at his best," Oates said. "The way he has swung the bat here, there is no way he hit .300 at Double-A last year. We would like to see the real Darrell Sherman, but the problem is, there are only two weeks left of spring training."
The Orioles claimed Sherman in the Rule V draft in December for a draft price of $50,000. He must make the 25-man major-league roster and stay on it all year, or be offered back to the San Diego Padres for $25,000. If the Padres don't reclaim him, he can be waived and sent to the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings.
The leadoff derby has come down to Brady Anderson and Luis Mercedes, both of whom have made an impression on Oates. Anderson is the more dependable all-around player, but Mercedes has the potential to be more of an impact player.
"There are days when I've been very encouraged," Oates said, "and there have been days when I've been frustrated."
Mercedes got two hits in yesterday's game to raise his average to .267, but he has struggled in left field.
Oates says there has been enough improvement in his defensive performance to make him a viable outfielder, but it is obvious that Anderson would be the first choice if he can swing the bat consistently.
"That's where the frustration comes in," Oates said. "There are days like [Monday], when he doesn't. Then there are days like the Montreal game, when I get so excited I want to run to the bank."