Wallach anxious about trip to Montreal

April 21, 1993|By Orange County Register

SANTA ANA, CALIF — SANTA ANA, Calif. -- Back to the land of the Expos goes Tim Wallach, carrying a bit of anxiety and an embarrassing batting average as he tries to show up his former team this week.

The Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman envisioned different circumstances under which to be returning to Montreal's Olympic Stadium, where he played the first 12 years of his career before leaving bitterly and signing with the Dodgers in the off-season.

"I'd have liked to be doing a little better," he said. "Still, it will be fun to go back."

So far, Wallach, 35, has not made the Expos regret his departure. His batting average is .143, and only that high because he broke an 0-for-19 streak Sunday with a bloop single, of which he quipped: "It was fun. I almost forgot how to do that."

So at least he goes into the three-game series on somewhat of a positive note.

"You mean .140 instead of .120?" he said with a laugh. "Yeah. Great."

Wallach's slow start has been magnified by his inability to hit with men on base. One of the enduring painful pictures of the Dodgers' first 10 games was Wallach coming to the plate with the bases loaded or two runners on base. He has stranded 31 base runners, driving in four.

"It's been a little frustrating," Wallach said. "You just can't let it affect you as far as your swing goes. When it happens and you try to do something different and that doesn't work, it'll really screw you up. I feel too good to be making so many outs."

Dodgers hitting instructor Ben Hines watches Wallach at the plate and in the batting cage and says little is wrong with his swing. It's just a slight timing problem.

"If mechanically he wasn't pretty solid, I'd be worried," Hines said. "But he is pretty solid. He'll come out of it. He won't jump back to all the numbers he had four or five years ago, but he'll be in that neighborhood."

That would be about 20 home runs, 25 to 35 doubles, an average around .270 and 90 to 100 RBI.

Wallach didn't come close to those numbers the past two years as he was switched from third base to first to make room for an Expos youth movement. His unhappiness spurred his move to the Dodgers, who wanted Wallach more for his Gold Glove-caliber fielding than his hitting.

But they also expected more than the .223 average he posted last year. Early in spring training, they installed him at the No. 5 spot in the batting order -- ahead of 1992 Dodgers home run leader Eric Karros -- and Wallach responded. He tied for the team lead with 16 RBI during the exhibition season. He even hit the team's first home run of the regular season and had four hits in his first nine at-bats.

Then his hitting fell apart. He went 2-for-36 during the next nine games.

"I'm doing the same things I've always done, the same things I did in the spring and I feel better than I did in the spring," Wallach said. "I just have no hits. If I stay with it and don't get frustrated, I will get hits."

Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda dropped him to sixth in the batting order behind Karros, who also had been struggling.

Nothing would make Wallach happier than to have a big series in Montreal, in front of Expos general manager Dan Duquette, who publicly stated after last season that he thought Wallach was over the hill.

When the Dodgers and Expos played an exhibition game this spring, Wallach said he was a little nervous. How will he be in his first real game against his former employer?

"I can't tell," he said. "There was a little [anxiety] in spring training the first time. Maybe there will be this time. I don't know."

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