Against Orioles, Texas' Palmer a lone star 3B's power source of worry for O's

August 28, 1993|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Unlike some other hitters who have tormented the Orioles, there is no mystery to Dean Palmer's success against them this year.

A year ago, after watching Frank Thomas hammer them into submission, the Orioles changed their pitching book on the White Sox's slugger. Their success ratio improved, but not radically. "He still has some pretty good numbers," said manager Johnny Oates.

Palmer, 24, is something of a late-comer among sluggers. Despite a .435 average (10-for-23) this season, the Texas Rangers' third baseman had only a .218 career average (17-for-78) against the Orioles.

But six of the 10 hits this season were home runs, all at Camden Yards, his personal field of screamers. That is the most home runs by an Orioles opponent in Baltimore during one season.

In addition, all seven of Palmer's career home runs against the Orioles and 13 of his 15 RBI have come there.

"There's no logical explanation for it," said Palmer, who hit three homers in the first two games of the season and three more during a four-game series last weekend. "I do see the ball better there [Camden Yards] than I do anywhere else."

The hitting background at Oriole Park has been widely acclaimed by batters throughout the American League, and Palmer leads the cheers. "It's a great hitters' background," he said. "I hope they make our park [scheduled to open next season] like that.

"But other than seeing the ball well there, I can't give you an explanation [for the power output]," Palmer added.

Oates, however, said the explanation is relatively simple.

"He's hit every mistake we've made," he said. "Three fastballs that we didn't get in enough and three off-speed pitches that we didn't get down enough."

If the explanation of his success is that simple, then the Orioles obviously have made more mistakes against Palmer than any other hitter in the league. "But you have to give him credit," said Oates. "When we make mistakes against him, he doesn't miss them.

"[But] with the game on the line, I'd rather face him than [Juan] Gonzalez. I'd rather not have to face either one of them. The Rangers have three guys in a row [Gonzalez, Julio Franco and Palmer] who are going to make you pay if you don't get the ball where you want it.

"And, pretty soon, the way [Ivan] Rodriguez is going, they're going to have four."

Of the four, Palmer unquestionably is the easiest to get out. He went 0-for-3 last night and is hitting only .237 and has more strikeouts (128) than hits (101) in 426 at-bats,

When he does hit safely, however, Palmer more often than not inflicts damage. Of his 101 hits, 55 have gone for extra bases, and he has 83 RBI, on pace for 105 this season.

"To look at him, you wouldn't think he had that much power," said Ben McDonald. "He's not real big, or real muscular, but he can hammer.

"He can be pitched to, especially if you get ahead of him. But if you get behind and hang a slider, or give him a high fastball -- he doesn't miss them.

"And he's going to get better," McDonald added. "Right now he swings at a lot of bad pitches, but I would imagine that's just because he's young."

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