Hammonds off to either false start, great career

April 21, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

Right fielder Jeffrey Hammonds hasn't conceded American League Rookie of the Year honors to Toronto's Carlos Delgado just yet, not with 5 1/2 months left in the season.

Before his two-run double in last night's game, Hammonds was hitting .302, had four doubles, one triple, three home runs, eight RBI and a .651 slugging percentage.

Hammonds' quick start begs a question not so easily answered, considering his limited big-league experience.

Is Hammonds hot, or is he just this good?

"We just have to wait and see," Hammonds said. "I can't answer that. I wish both."

Hammonds, 23, hit three home runs in 105 at-bats with the Orioles last season. His third home run came in his 42nd at-bat. In his 243 minor-league at bats, Hammonds homered eight times.

"Let me play a year first, get 500 at-bats, then I'll tell you how many I can hit," Hammonds said. "It could be amazing, or it could be a very, long, long 500 at-bats. Right now, I have no clue."

Chicago Cubs assistant general manager Syd Thrift, former GM of the Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Yankees, has scouted the Orioles in Texas and during this homestand.

"You haven't even seen it yet," Thrift said after watching Hammonds homer to right field in Tuesday night's game. "You are just beginning to see his power. He has some power the other way, and that's a very good sign. To wait on a ball like that and still be able to hit it out, that's a good sign. Barry Bonds' first five home runs for Pittsburgh were to left field."

All three of Hammonds' home runs last season were to left. He has hit one to each field this season.

Hammonds has heard and will continue to hear many flattering remarks such as Thrift's from baseball's talent evaluators.

"I try to keep it in perspective and realize things change every day," Hammonds said. "Every day you can go through trials and tribulations. If the day goes good, then I smile."

Quote of the day

"If they are going to do something, they better do something fast while I'm still hitting .500."

-- Reserve third baseman Leo Gomez, whose name has surfaced in trade talks and is 1-for-2.

Cook out of organization

The Orioles assigned the contract of right-hander Mike Cook to the New York Mets' Triple-A affiliate in Norfolk, Va. By doing so, the Orioles relieved themselves of the obligation to pay the remainder of Cook's 1994 salary. Had they released him, they would have been responsible for it.

The Orioles' decision to protect Cook on the 40-man roster last winter cost them right-hander Jose Mercedes, who was selected in the Rule V draft by Milwaukee.

Cook's departure made room for right-hander Kevin McGehee, who returns to Triple-A Rochester from extended spring training, where he recovered from a right elbow strain.

Mercedes opened the season on Milwaukee's disabled list.

Orioles to miss Johnson

The Orioles won't have to face Seattle left-hander Randy Johnson in the three-game series that begins tomorrow night and continues with day games Saturday and Sunday.

The pitching pairings for the series: Dave Fleming (2-1, 4.96) vs. Ben McDonald (3-0, 2.91); Roger Salkeld (first start) vs. Sid Fernandez (0-0, 0.00); Greg Hibbard (1-1, 3.79) vs. Jamie Moyer (1-1, 4.91).

Beginning with tonight's game against California Angels left-hander Brian Anderson (1-0, 1.88), three of the next four pitchers to face the Orioles are left-handed, which likely will mean the first start of the year for Lonnie Smith.

The Orioles faced only one lefty starter in their first 13 games, and Orioles manager Johnny Oates used the opportunity to give designated hitter Harold Baines half a day off. Jack Voigt started at DH.

Miscellaneous

Cal Ripken's next double will be his 400th. Only one other Oriole has hit that many: Brooks Robinson (482). . . . Former Orioles outfielder Paul Blair will meet fans, sign autographs and pose for photos in a free event from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday at the Harborplace Amphitheatre. . . . Left-handed reliever Jim Poole allowed four hits and a run in one inning in his most recent three appearances, heading into last night's game. For his Orioles career, he had allowed just 58 hits in 93 innings. "It would be tough to find a left-hander who did a better job than Poole did last year," Oates said. "His numbers were just magnificent. Over the course of 162 games he will do a good job again this year." . . . Orioles relievers had stranded 18 of the 25 runners they inherited going into last night's game. . . . Catcher Chris Hoiles threw out five of the first 12 runners who attempted to steal.

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