Second's no longer best for Devo At fifth, he adds dimension to order

June 19, 1993|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

CLEVELAND -- His spot in the batting order is more of necessity than design, but Mike Devereaux is likely to become a fixture in the middle of the Orioles' lineup.

Manager Johnny Oates said yesterday that he doesn't see Devereaux returning to the second spot, where he batted most of his breakthrough season a year ago.

"When Devo came off the disabled list [May 27], he expressed a desire to hit second," Oates said. "I talked to him about it and asked him to bear with me.

"I can understand how a hitter can get comfortable hitting in the same spot all of the time -- and I'm sure Devo had that feeling last year hitting behind Brady [Anderson] and in front of Cal [Ripken] most of the time. But over the long haul, I think he can become as comfortable hitting fifth as he was hitting second.

"The bottom line is that we had somebody else to bat No. 2 [Mark McLemore], but nobody else to bat No. 5. And overall, I think it's a better spot for him."

With Glenn Davis now out of the picture on an indefinite basis, and without another proven run producer to hit in the middle of the lineup, Oates doesn't think he has the luxury of using Devereaux in the No. 2 spot.

"Mike is a run producer -- a hacker," Oates said. "I don't see any difference in his approach. I think he's been very productive -- he's done a good job for us.

"Last year was an abnormal year for us in terms of production from the eighth, ninth and leadoff spots. In the long run, I think he'll having more opportunities [to drive in runs] batting fifth."

Despite missing 22 games because of a slight separation in the left shoulder area, Devereaux ranks fourth on the club with 23 RBI.

And, after a slow start, his average had gradually climbed to .268, third best among the regulars.

After getting a broken-bat double in the second inning last night, Devereaux had reached base via a hit or walk in 26 straight games and 32 of the last 33.

"I think he's handled it very well," Oates said of his No. 5 hitter. "It's not something he wanted to do, but it has helped us as a club.

"I think the fifth spot is good for him. It takes away from his speed a little bit, but he really hasn't been a base-stealer anyhow. And I'd rather see him drive in runs than steal bases," said Oates.

The Orioles' run production has improved significantly since Devereaux and Harold Baines returned from the disabled list on the same day.

In their past 14 games, the Orioles scored 76 runs, an average of 5.63. In their previous 51 games they had averaged only 3.82 runs.

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