Devereaux strikes and strikes out again

April 10, 1994|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Sun Staff Writer

For his 31st birthday today, Mike Devereaux likely would pass up a cake and presents for about 100 additional points on his batting average and a significant reduction in his strikeout total.

Until either or both happens, the Orioles center fielder will have to be content with hitting home runs.

"You've got to love that," Devereaux said of his power stroke. "If that's the way it's going to happen, that's the best way. At least, I'm getting something that's helping the ballclub, though I'm striking out more than I like."

Devereaux, who hit a three-run homer to the right in the third to give the Orioles a lead they never surrendered in a 7-5 win over the Texas Rangers at Camden Yards yesterday, is having a peculiar first week.

His three homers and six RBIs in the Orioles' first four games place him among American League hitters in both categories, signaling something of a return to his 1992 form.

In every other respect, though, Devereaux is struggling at the plate, carrying a .188 batting average.

The three homers are his only hits, and he has struck out nine times, three coming yesterday. At this pace, Devereaux would hit 122 homers and strike out 365 times.

"I'm thinking too much and I'm not seeing the ball really well, but it's early and at least when I make contact, I'm making good contact," said Devereaux.

Devereaux also contributed the game's defensive highlight with a diving back-handed catch of a sinking liner off the bat of Rangers shortstop Manuel Lee to end the fifth inning.

The dive was reminiscent of the attempt he made on a drive last May 2 by Kansas City's Phil Hiatt on which Devereaux partially separated his left shoulder.

"I wasn't thinking of that at all," said Devereaux. "If I did, I wouldn't have caught it. You can't think about that or readjust."

Devereaux's homer yesterday came on a 3-1 fastball off Texas starter Kevin Brown, who allowed only 14 homers in 233 innings last season.

Brown was the second-toughest AL pitcher for opposing hitters to homer off in 1993, behind Kansas City's Kevin Appier, off whom Devereaux connected on Opening Day.

"I just hit through it," said Devereaux. "You don't think about it [Brown's home run statistics]. I just think about getting a good piece of the ball. I mean, he struck me out three times, so he was doing something right."

The 1993 season was full of injury and frustration for Devereaux, who started and ended the year slowly, with shoulder and heel injuries and a nearly monthlong stay on the disabled list, which came after the diving attempt on Hiatt's double.

He ended the season with 14 homers and 75 RBIs and a .250 batting average, marked drop-offs from 1992, when Devereaux hit .276 with 24 homers and 107 RBIs.

But things already look different for Devereaux for 1994, largely because he has returned to center field after a brief spring training tryout in right field, and has returned to the second spot in the batting order, from where he did most of his damage two years ago.

"In '92, I had my best year, and I was hitting second," he said. "I'm glad I'm back there."

Devereaux's power stroke in that slot is a definite change from 1993's principal No. 2 batter, Mark McLemore, a contact hitter.

"You don't see that kind of power in that spot, not in this game," said first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, who bats behind Devereaux. "I'm glad that with one swing, he can clear the bases. That just adds more to our offense."

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