Returning sound is sweet music to Hammonds

SIDELIGHT

May 19, 1994|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Sun Staff Writer

By Jeffrey Hammonds' reckoning, the music that blared from the Camden Yards sound system yesterday when he climbed into the batting cage could have been better, but apart from that, it was a pretty good day.

Whatever problems Hammonds had with the music of Creedence Clearwater Revival was made up for by the sweet sound of the ball jumping off his bat.

Hammonds is hoping that sound will be repeated on a regular basis starting today, when he is eligible to be activated from the disabled list, where he landed with a strained knee.

Hammonds says he won't really know if he'll be ready to go until sometime before today's game with the Boston Red Sox, and it seems unlikely that he will get the green light.

"He told these guys [reporters], 'Don't be surprised if you see me in New York,' " said Orioles manager Johnny Oates. "I don't know if that means at the ballpark or in New York, because that's home for him."

Still, Hammonds took comfort in the fact that he was able to hit yesterday.

"I'm not going to come off [the disabled list] to sit. I want to play," said Hammonds. "It [the knee] is improving rapidly. I did not expect to be hitting [yesterday]."

To say that Hammonds has been missed from the Orioles lineup is an understatement.

The rookie right fielder, who began the season hitting in the ninth slot in the order, moved to second while Mike Devereaux was ailing and hit well, batting .326 with four homers and 14 RBIs.

The Orioles could use those numbers as both Devereaux, the current No. 2 hitter, and leadoff man Brady Anderson are slumping.

A healthy and productive Hammonds would provide a runner for Rafael Palmeiro, Harold Baines or Cal Ripken to drive in.

Hammonds was slowed after he collided with Seattle catcher Bill Haselman attempting to score in a game on April 30. The crash caused a concussion, and the side effects lasted for days. leading him to drop a fly ball in Oakland May 3.

He appeared to be recovering from the blurred vision and headaches with a couple of days of rest when he sprained his knee in the indoor batting tunnel on May 7.

This stint on the disabled list, the third of his 56-game Orioles career, is part of a disquieting pattern for Hammonds, the fourth player chosen in the 1992 amateur draft and the first player from that draft to reach the majors.

On another ballclub, Hammonds' ailments might not be quite so noticeable.

But, given the fanfare that accompanied his draft selection and the durability of his teammates, Hammonds' absences have drawn some attention.

But Orioles officials and Hammonds understand that injuries come with the territory.

"He applies himself. These things just happen," said Orioles general manager Roland Hemond. "Jim Palmer was a prime example of early injuries, but a long successful career. And Ben [McDonald] had the same thing early on and he hasn't missed a turn in two years plus. You can never predict, but he'll be fine."

Said Hammonds: "I didn't know that Ben went through all that when he came up and look where he is. That gives me something to think about. For me to run into a catcher after my disk last year, that should give an indication that I'm not going to change the way I play. I'm happy, honored and privileged to be where I am. I mean, I'm 23 years old and I'm playing in the major leagues. I hope in five years, they [the fans] will forget the 15 days."

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