Strength in numbers marks new McLemore

July 19, 1993|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Staff Writer

Orioles reliever Alan Mills was only joking yesterday when he suggested "Batman" as a new nickname for teammate Mark McLemore.

OK, so it isn't terribly original, and there might be copyright problems to work through, but McLemore's recent hot swing, combined with his season-long consistency, warrants some kind of recognition.

After what McLemore did to Minnesota this weekend, including a 3-for-5 day yesterday, Twins manager Tom Kelly was ready to name him American League Player of the Week.

"I've been in a pretty good groove lately. I just hope to keep it up," McLemore said.

Pretty good groove? McLemore was being humble.

He went 7-for-14 in the last three games of the Twins series and has hit safely in 10 of his past 11 games for a .404 average during that span.

That hot string has taken McLemore's overall average to .304 and extended what has been, to date, a magical season. He leads the club with 33 multi-hit games; he had just 13 all of last season.

"I've been swinging the bat pretty consistently and I feel a lot stronger, physically and mentally," said McLemore, who scored three runs in the Orioles' 7-2 win over Minnesota yesterday.

McLemore, 28, underwent an off-season conditioning program that increased his upper body strength, which is reflected in his power numbers.

For instance, McLemore, who hadn't homered in four years, has connected twice this season and his 18 doubles in 83 games this year are already a single-season career high.

Sometime this week, McLemore, who has 99 hits and 127 total bases this season, should surpass his previous single-season highs of 102 hits and 130 total bases, both collected in 1987 when he was a member of the California Angels.

McLemore believes the secret to his success has been his ability to drive the ball, as well as keep the ball on the ground.

"I get mad when I hit the ball in the air. That's not Mac," said McLemore. "I've got to keep the ball on the ground to be successful."

Orioles hitting coach Greg Biagini has worked with McLemore and has seen the change.

"He's got a better grounding than he's ever had in the past," said Biagini. "He has less body movement [in the batter's box], especially forward. He can drive the ball better, and that's all power is, how well the bat goes through the batting area."

McLemore, who has never hit above .246 in a full major-league season, continues to prosper while learning to play new positions.

The latest is third base, where the fielding results have been mixed. He has played three games there and has committed two errors, including a miscue in Saturday night's 4-2 loss that preceded a two-run homer from Kent Hrbek.

Luckily, McLemore's defensive adjustments have not kept him from swinging a hot bat.

"He's done well at keeping those things separate," said Biagini. "He just wants to get at-bats."

"I will play wherever the team needs me to play and I will play third base well," said McLemore, who was at second base yesterday. "I just need a little more time to adjust. I just want to play."

ON THE MARK

The Orioles' Mark McLemore has hit in 10 of his past 11 games (19-for-47, .404) with seven multi-hit games:

Date.. .. .. ..Opp. .. ..AB .. ..R .. ..H .. ..RBI

7/5 .. .. .. ..K.C. .. ...4 .. ..0 .. ..2 .. .. .0

7/6 .. .. .. ..K.C. .. ...4 .. ..0 .. ..2 .. .. .2

7/7 .. .. .. ..K.C. .. ...5 .. ..1 .. ..3 .. .. .2

7/8 .. .. .. ..Chi. .. ...5 .. ..0 .. ..1 .. .. .0

7/9 .. .. .. ..Chi. .. ...4 .. ..1 .. ..1 .. .. .1

7/10 .. .. .. .Chi. .. ...4 .. ..1 .. ..2 .. .. .0

7/11 .. .. .. .Chi. .. ...5 .. ..0 .. ..1 .. .. .0

7/15 .. .. ....Minn. .. ..2 .. ..0 .. ..0 .. .. .0

7/16 .. .. .. .Minn. .. ..5 .. ..1 .. ..2 .. .. .1

7/17 .. .. .. .Minn. .. ..4 .. ..0 .. ..2 .. .. .0

7/18 .. .. .. .Minn. .. ..5 .. ..3 .. ..3 .. .. .0

Tot. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..47 .. ..7 .. .19 .. .. .6

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