Devereaux puts patience to test Back from injury, CF seeks '92 stroke

June 05, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

Mike Devereaux can look at his numbers and understand everything that has led him to this point in the season, but that doesn't make it any easier.

He was the leading run-producer for the Orioles a year ago. He was on the fast track to stardom during a 1992 season in which he hit 24 home runs and had 107 RBI. He wanted to do it all again this year, but he fell flat on his face.


Now, one week after he and teammate Harold Baines returned from the disabled list, Devereaux wants to be back on top of the world, but he knows that it doesn't usually happen that fast. He has swung the bat well, considering the circumstances, but he has yet to put the hammer down the way he did a year ago.

"I just have to realize that it will take some time," said Devereaux, who made his first game appearance at Camden Yards in nearly a month last night when the Orioles opened a three-game series against the Seattle Mariners. "Everybody wants to swing the bat well. I'm just being a little bit impatient. I have to try and stay within myself."

There have been no complaints from the manager's office, where Johnny Oates waited impatiently to put Devereaux and Baines back in the starting lineup. Oates didn't expect to get instant results when Devereaux returned nearly two weeks ahead of schedule. He didn't expect Devereaux or Baines to be in midseason form. But he did expect their presence to have an effect on the fortunes of the club no matter how much they produced during their first week or two back in action.

"Whether it translates into wins or them getting hits, we'll have to wait and see," Oates said, "but I know that I feel better every day writing those names in the lineup."

It has translated into some tangible offensive numbers. Devereaux hit safely in his first six games after returning from the neck and shoulder injury that sidelined him for 3 1/2 weeks. He has batted .313 but driven in only four runs -- enough to be helpful but not enough to be happy.

Timing is everything. Devereaux got off to a soft start at the plate in April and just was beginning to come on when he made a diving attempt for a fly ball May 2 and landed on the disabled list. Now he is feeling his way around again.

"I know last year I didn't have a great April either," he said, "so I was looking forward to May because I always have a decent May. I missed that, too, so I'm definitely not where I anticipated being, but I just need to stay within myself and not get frustrated."

The three-week hiatus brought him into June with just one home run and 14 RBI. He entered the month a year ago with 10 home runs and 27 RBI, then put up big numbers in the summer to emerge as the Orioles' MVP.

Can he do that again? It would be unrealistic to think he could miss nearly a month of play and then make a run at his 1992 numbers, but it is not outrageous to conceive of him recovering his stroke in time to have another great summer. If Devereaux managed to drive in 80 percent of the runs he drove in after June 1 last year, he could look forward to an 82-RBI season.

Maybe that wouldn't measure up to his career year in 1992, but it would be an outstanding season under the circumstances.

Devereaux, however, is impatient to start hitting the ball with more authority. He has only one home run. Baines still hasn't hit his first of the year.

"His home runs will come," Oates said. "He hit the ball off the wall the other day and he has hit some balls hard. He's getting his hits . . . and a couple of RBI. Neither one of them is going to hit 30 or 35 home runs, but they are going to get their share of extra-base hits. Home runs aren't that big a deal to me. It's driving in runs. It's getting hits with people on base. That's what I want those guys to do."

Devereaux knew -- even before the season started -- that he had a tough act to follow. He had just signed one-year contract worth more than $3 million, so he was particularly conscious of not getting caught up in trying to justify it.

"When you set your goals, you don't want to set them too high," Devereaux said. "I think I have the ability to perform at that level again, but it also depends on other people. You have to stay healthy. I felt before I got hurt that I was just starting to turn things around."

He has come back to try to help the Orioles turn their season around. He was in the lineup when the club struggled to a 5-13 record in its first 18 games, but he was not up to speed. Now he hopes that he can help push the team back into contention in the American League East.

"I think we had a very positive road trip," he said. "If we could have gotten a split in California, it would have been a great trip. We've just got to concentrate on winning every series. There was a time when I would have said win every series at home and play even on the road, but we're beyond that now. We need to win every series. I don't think that's impossible."

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