Anderson leads off doing well

April 15, 1992|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

BOSTON NNB — BOSTON -- One week doesn't constitute a thorough exam, but if it qualifies as a quiz, Brady Anderson has earned more than just a passing grade.

Playing more than he has any time since he first joined the Orioles in 1988, Anderson so far has given manager John Oates exactly what he's looking for from his leadoff hitter.

Anderson has started all seven games and, though his batting average is .208 (5-for-24), his on-base percentage (.387) is right at the level Oates has proclaimed satisfactory. He has scored five of the 18 runs registered by the Orioles to date.

There is even a bonus connected to Anderson's performance thus far. "He's not going to face any more lefthanders than he has in this stretch," said Oates.

Indeed, going into today's game against the Red Sox, the Orioles had faced four lefthanded starters in their first seven games. And they'll get another one (Joe Hesketh) tomorrow night.

Anderson's early results have provided one of the few offensive bright spots for the Orioles thus far.

"He's holding his own," said Oates, not wishing to get carried away by the first seven games. "But I don't want this to be a one-week thing.

"I don't care how many hits he gets as long as he gets on base eight or nine times a week, plays defense and steals a base or two. If he can do that, I can live with it.

"He can do so many things, you'd like to have him at the top of the lineup. I don't want to platoon in the leadoff spot."

Anderson's numbers are much more impressive over his last five games. After failing to get on base (in eight appearances) in the first two games at home, the lefthanded-hitting outfielder has gone 5-for-17 (.294) and reached base 12 times in 23 plate appearances (a .522 on-base percentage).

Included are three walks and three times that he's been hit by a pitch. "I've always gotten hit a lot considering the number of at-bats," said Anderson, "but it's better not to have to do it that way."

His philosophy thus far has been very uncomplicated. "I'm just going up there trying to hit," he said. "I'm swinging at the first good pitch I get. I'll take some strikes -- but it's not because I've made up my mind before the pitch is thrown.

"I'll take the walks, but I'm not going up there looking for one."

He also hasn't been bunting, although the Orioles would like him to. "It's already been mentioned to him," Oates said.

Sometimes bunting can be a touchy subject with Anderson. A year ago, when he was getting the same kind of trial as leadoff hitter, Anderson bunted often early in the year -- and was the victim of several outstanding defensive plays.

"I bunted against Nolan Ryan with a 3-and-2 count and they still threw me out," said Anderson. "That sort of discouraged me."

It's not that Anderson has completely given up on the bunt, just that he's been reluctant to use it as a base for his offense. The more he hits, the more it figures to come into play later on.

"I've talked to [Dodgers centerfielder] Brett Butler about it," said Anderson, "and he's about the best around. He says you've got to do it [bunt] whether they're looking for it or not. I've also worked some with [Angels batting coach] Rod Carew, and he says the same thing. Of course, those guys bunt a lot better than I do."

When he was coming up in the Red Sox system, Anderson actually was discouraged from trying to bunt for a base hit. "I was usually hitting third and they told me they didn't want the No. 3 hitter bunting," he said. "But when I came up here [he opened the 1988 season in centerfield for the Red Sox], I was leading off.

"Then I went back to the minor leagues and learned how to bunt."

Shortly thereafter he was traded to the Orioles in the deal for Mike Boddicker and he's been trying to establish himself ever since. At the age of 28, this figures to be either a breakthrough year for Anderson -- or one that relegates him to a role of fourth or fifth outfielder.

If he can come close to duplicating his first week's performance for the rest of the season, Anderson will finally be on the way to getting himself established.

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