April's gains help ease Hammonds' pain

SIDELIGHT

May 02, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

SEATTLE -- Orioles right fielder Jeffrey Hammonds arrived at the Kingdome yesterday with a puffed-up lower lip and a swollen left cheekbone.

"Hey, look," Orioles right-hander Mike Mussina said. "It's Apollo Creed."

Hammonds did have the look of a boxer on the wrong end of a fight with Rocky Balboa, but it didn't put a damper on his first April in the major leagues.

Hammonds, out of the lineup yesterday after a home-plate run-in with Seattle catcher Bill Haselman forced him out of Saturday night's game in the first inning, finished the month with a .305 average, seven doubles, four home runs, 14 RBIs and a .561 slugging percentage.

After the crash at home, Hammonds had stitches sewn above his lip and below his left eye. There was so much swelling that Hammonds' eye virtually closed up during the night. He iced it through the night, but didn't need an alarm clock to remind him to do so.

"The throbbing wakes you up," Hammonds said.

The swelling subsided significantly from the time Hammonds left the ballpark Saturday night to his arrival yesterday.

"I should be in there Tuesday, as long as I can see," Hammonds said.

Hammonds said he cut his face on Haselman's mask.

"It's probably a good thing he was wearing one," Hammonds said. "God knows what could have happened if he wasn't wearing one. It might have been worse if our heads collided. He was up the line a little, the ball came in on one hop and that's the last thing I remember."

Hammonds' quick start (12 of his 25 hits have been for extra bases), coupled with Mike Devereaux's slump (.160, 27 strikeouts in 75 at-bats) caused Oates to move Hammonds from the ninth spot in the order to the second.

Mark McLemore batted second yesterday in Hammonds' absence, and Devereaux was dropped to seventh. Devereaux went 0-for-4 and struck out once. Devereaux finished an April 11 game at Detroit with a .200 batting average. It has been below that every day since.

"Hitting in the big leagues is hard enough for me right now without worrying about changing my mentality at the plate," Hammonds said of batting second.

Of his first April, Hammonds said: "I thought it went very well, but it's nothing I can dwell on because the season continues. If I can keep it up and stay as consistent as I've been, I can have a great year."

Several teams inquired about the availability of Hammonds last winter and were greeted with a standard response from Orioles general manager Roland Hemond.

"I told them I'd have to go along with him and they'd have to give up their jobs," Hemond said.

Hammonds' speed has forced more than one infielder into hurrying himself into an error, has prevented double plays, stretched singles into doubles, and earned him infield hits.

"He defies the old saying you can't steal first base," Hemond said.

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