McLemore as No. 2 not a hit with Oates

INSIDE PITCH

April 26, 1994|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

It is no secret that during the past two seasons the second hitter has occupied the most opportunistic position in the Orioles' lineup.

First Mike Devereaux, then Mark McLemore had career years hitting behind Brady Anderson and ahead of the middle of the order.

So far this season, for a variety of reasons, the production has dropped significantly.

Until he suffered a groin muscle injury, Devereaux was occupying his favorite slot, with McLemore operating out of the No. 8 hole.

Despite three home runs, the return of Devereaux to the second spot has not paid immediate dividends, as he hit only .173 (9-for-52) in the first 14 games.

When Devereaux was sidelined,Jeffrey Hammonds assumed his position and went 1-for-13 in three games before getting singles in his first two at-bats last night.

While those numbers might suggest a change, perhaps moving McLemore back to the top, manager Johnny Oates has several reasons for not wanting to tinker with the lineup he set coming out of spring training.

But that's not to say the thought didn't cross his mind before last night's game against the Oakland Athletics.

"When I was writing down possible lineups, one of them had Mac batting second," said Oates. "But I don't want all of the left-handed hitters together."

With Rafael Palmeiro firmly entrenched, and prospering as the No. 3 hitter, considerable clout has been added to the middle of the lineup. But with the left-handed-hitting Anderson leading off, Oates doesn't want to leave himself vulnerable to a left-handed reliever.

Though McLemore is a switch-hitter, his numbers are much better from the left side than the right. And that will be reason enough to keep him away from the No. 2 spot that treated him so well a year ago.

"I'm very comfortable with the arrangement we have with Brady and Devo," said Oates. "Right now we aren't getting a whole lot out of either of those spots, but I'm confident

that will change."

There is another factor not to be overlooked in this scenario. The addition of Palmeiro to the Orioles' lineup has drawn even more attention to the first two hitters in the lineup.

It would be a mistake to underestimate the added attention opposing pitchers are paying to the first two hitters.

Much is being made of the fact that Anderson and Devereaux have struck out (17 and 18) more often than they have walked (10 and 6).

But a major key to restricting the Orioles' offense is keeping the first two hitters off base.

That much, at least, was much in evidence last night when Anderson and Hammonds reached seven times -- and scored four runs -- in what could loosely be described as a baseball game.

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