Hammonds dreams on: no first-day home run OPENING DAY '94


April 05, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

Rookie right fielder Jeffrey Hammonds made no attempt to hide what he hoped to get out of his first major-league Opening Day.

He wanted a home run. Badly.

"I watched Ray Lankford open the season with one last night for St. Louis," Hammonds said. "What a great way to start the season."

Clearing the fences was on his mind as the game approached.

"Just one," he said. "Just one."

Afterward, he again spoke about one. The one that got away when he popped a grooved Kevin Appier fastball to center in the third inning.

"Just missed that one, Pops," Hammonds told his father, who was among the 47,549 spectators. "But we got a win. We can look back on this one and smile."

Hammonds doubled, drove in a run, scored a run and made a running catch near the wall in foul territory in the Orioles' 6-3

victory over Kansas City.

What memory from his first Opening Day will endure the longest?

"The fastball that I missed," Hammonds said. "Appier doesn't make too many mistakes, so you better take advantage when he does. One of these years, I'll get one out of here on Opening Day."

As a New Jersey youth, Hammonds' mind was not on baseball during Opening Day.

"I never wanted to go to a major-league opener because it was still basketball season," Hammonds said. "If I was a kid, I wouldn't know about this game until the next morning when I was reading the newspaper, eating my cereal and getting ready to go to school."

Reliever Brad Pennington and outfielder Damon Buford took in the atmosphere but did not play.

"I've never been to one," Pennington said. "I always used to sneak my radio into school to listen to the Reds opener."

Buford said he attended two or three Opening Days in San Francisco, when his father, Don, was a coach for the Giants.

"As a fan, they were always great because there was always hope," he said. "Everything was brand new."

Fernandez passes test

Left-hander Sid Fernandez cleared one more hurdle yesterday on his way to an Orioles debut scheduled for April 17 at Texas.

Fernandez, forced onto the disabled list by bursitis, threw batting practice, reported no pain and was scheduled to begin his minor-league rehabilitation assignment with a start Thursday in Columbus, Ga., for the Orioles' Single-A Albany, Ga., affiliate.

Fernandez will work on a 50-pitch limit. If he comes out of that start without a setback, he will make a second minor-league start, possibly April 12 in Frederick, Orioles manager Johnny Oates said.

Fernandez threw all of his pitches and threw at full speed. Barring setbacks, the pitch limits will increase to 75, then 95.

Bench all right

All six players on Oates' bench are right-handed hitters, a circumstance he does not expect to last the entire season.

"That's something we're working on," Oates said. "Having somebody not only to pinch hit, but if you want to give a right-handed hitter a day off against a tough right-hander. Not an everyday player, but someone who swings the bat from the left side and can play in the field. But it's not a priority, not something we will go to [owner] Mr. [Peter] Angelos and say we need to get one."

PR director named

Charles A. Steinberg has been named to replace Rick Vaughn as director of public relations for the Orioles. Vaughn was named director of communications for the Washington Redskins last month.

Steinberg, 35, joined the Orioles in 1976 and has been the director of public affairs for the past three years. A 1984 graduate of the University of Maryland dental school, Steinberg became the Orioles' team dentist in 1984.

Opening Day winning pitcher Mike Mussina gave the game ball to Vaughn.

Pitching matchups

David Cone opposes Ben McDonald tomorrow in the finale of the two-game series.

The pitching pairings for the three-game weekend series against Texas, beginning Friday: Jack Armstrong vs. Jamie Moyer; Kevin Brown vs. Mussina; Rick Helling vs. Arthur Rhodes.

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