Hammonds ends 1st month in majors with flourish

Orioles notebook

July 26, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

MINNEAPOLIS -- Rookie Jeffrey Hammonds completed his first month in the major leagues yesterday, and he gave no indication that big-league pitching is catching up with him.

"He's wondering if there's a higher league to go to," joked teammate David Segui after Hammonds had three more hits yesterday to raise his average to .337.

"I can just quit now, right?" said a laughing Hammonds, who turned in his third straight multiple-hit performance in yesterday's 5-2 loss to Minnesota at the Metrodome.

Not yet. He has given the Orioles a big offensive boost since his major-league debut June 25, driving in 19 runs in 24 games and adding another dimension to a lineup that seems to get more speed-oriented by the day.

Hammonds beat out a pair of infield hits yesterday and also contributed a double to the Orioles' 10-hit attack, but the club came up short against left-hander Jim Deshaies and the Twins bullpen.

There is little question that the Orioles made the right move bringing him to the major leagues in his first year of professional ball. The question now is whether he is as good as he has looked during his fabulous first month.

"It's too early to judge him," manager Johnny Oates said. "I'll let you know over the long term. We know he's talented, but we have to wait and see how he reacts when he goes 0-for-21 -- if he ever does with that speed. If there is a faster guy from the right side of the plate, I don't know who it is."

Hammonds is trying hard to be humble, but it isn't easy when you look like The Natural. If you project his numbers over the remainder of the schedule, he could end up with 10 home runs and 60 RBI in little more than half a season.

"I can't complain," he said. "I'm still happy to be around. I'm happy to be contributing. I'm not going to ask any questions about my success. I just hope it continues."

Mussina definitely out

Oates said before Saturday's game he was "95 percent certain" that right-hander Mike Mussina would not start against Toronto at SkyDome.

"That's 100 percent now," Oates said yesterday.

Rick Sutcliffe will start tomorrow's game in Toronto and Fernando Valenzuela will be the starter Wednesday.

Mussina, who has been plagued by a sore back, is expected to start against the Boston Red Sox on Friday at Camden Yards, but even that is tentative.

"He'll start one of the first five games after we get home," Oates said.

Sky falling?

Orioles outfielders Hammonds and Mike Devereaux were not far out of the line of fire when a large metal object landed in the Metrodome outfield Friday night.

The object, described as a large piece of railing that came loose from the facing of the upper deck, fell in right field during the late innings of the Orioles' 5-1 victory over the Twins.

It could have been disastrous if one of the players had been in the vicinity when it landed. Hammonds and Devereaux both said that it was so heavy that they felt the Metrodome floor shake when it hit the ground.

Twins officials said they will ask the stadium authority to do a stress test on all of the railing in the stadium to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Mea culpa

Twins manager Tom Kelly has been criticized this year for placing too much blame for the club's poor performance on his players, so he has vowed to take all of the blame the rest of the way.

He even accepted responsibility for the club's horrible relief effort (six earned runs) in the last two innings of Saturday's game.

"I asked my guys to do too much," Kelly said. "I didn't do a good job managing at the end."

An objective opinion

Twins catcher Brian Harper was asked this weekend to compare Valenzuela and Jamie Moyer, both of whom he had faced earlier in their careers. Both have altered their pitching styles dramatically since then.

"I faced [Moyer] before and he didn't have that cut fastball," said Harper. "I faced Fernando before [when Harper was with the Pittsburgh Pirates] and he didn't have that cut fastball either. That is the pitch they are using to keep everyone off balance."

Oates on rotation

Someone asked Oates whether he has considered splitting up Moyer and Valenzuela, who are pitching back to back in the Orioles' rotation. Some managers try to keep the opposition off balance by interspersing the hard throwers and the finesse pitchers, but Oates does not embrace that philosophy.

"I think that's a fallacy," he said. "I think it could be an advantage, because a manager can't rest someone in his right-handed lineup against you. And anyway, they seem to be doing OK the way it is."

Good relief effort

The Twins and the American Red Cross teamed up with Minnesota merchants this weekend to stage a bottled-water drive for the victims of the flooding in the Midwest. Fans contributed 9,000 gallons of bottled water on Saturday and an undisclosed amount of cash. The drive continued yesterday.

Dubious record

The Twins' starting rotation has gone 98 straight games without a complete game, which is an ongoing major-league record. They have not had one since John Smiley's on Oct. 2 of last year.

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