Yanks' O'Neill, hitting .475, adds more converts in 5-for-6 weekend


May 23, 1994|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- To a man, the Orioles are stunned by the early success of the New York Yankees' Paul O'Neill. The right fielder continued his onslaught yesterday by going 3-for-4, including his 10th home run, to raise his universe-leading average to .475.

"Right now he's the one batter that a pitcher has a disadvantage against," said reliever Jim Poole. "His on-base percentage is .580, which means he's getting on base over half the time."

Actually, Poole was the only pitcher who retired O'Neill all weekend. The left-hander got him on a called third strike that appeared to stun O'Neill -- who was 2-for-2 Friday and sat out Saturday -- as much as it did everybody else.

After being called out, O'Neill stood in the batter's box for an instant, and seemed to disagree with plate umpire John Shulock. However, from left field, Brady Anderson had a different version.

"He was arguing the pitch," Anderson joked. "He just didn't know what to do."

O'Neill reached base eight times in nine plate appearances against the Orioles, with three walks, three singles, a double and a home run. "I'd like to know what it feels like," said Anderson, "to go 2-for-5 and have your average drop."

Even though he got O'Neill out, Poole was amazed by what he saw yesterday. "I was in here [the clubhouse] watching Lee [Smith] pitch to him," Poole said, referring to the bottom of the 10th inning.

"Lee threw pitches that were perfect . . . away, away, away . . . and he still got the bat head out and hit the ball in the seats. He's in an unbelievable zone right now."

More Hammonds concern

There appears to be reason for concern about when Jeffrey Hammonds will return to the Orioles' lineup. The rookie outfielder returned to Baltimore last night and is scheduled to be examined by team doctors again today.

"He ran hard yesterday [Saturday] and his knee was swollen today," manager Johnny Oates said yesterday. "If his knee is going to swell up after he runs in a straight line, I don't know how he can go out and play nine innings."

Hammonds had been indicating that he felt his progress was such that he would be able to resume playing this week. That now appears to be out of the question.

Originally sidelined by the effects of a concussion suffered during a crash at home plate three weeks ago, Hammonds apparently aggravated an old high school football injury while hitting in the batting cage.

After an original scary diagnosis, the injury was determined not to be serious. But the fact that the knee hasn't responded to rest and treatment is cause to wonder if surgery might be necessary.

Oates explains ejection

Oates' ejection from yesterday's game was out of character, but he insisted nothing should be read into his colorful performance.

"Don't read anything into that," Oates said after the game. "The only time I react like that is when, in my opinion, it's not a bang-bang play.

"Those guys [the umpires] know that. They know I'm not going to go out there and show them up. What's the point of me doing that? It's not going to get me a bang-bang call later, and it might even cost me one."

Oates was thrown out after Shulock called out Cal Ripken at home following a double by Chris Hoiles. Ripken immediately complained that he had not been tagged on the play and when Oates came on the field he was holding his hands 10 to 12 inches apart, indicating Yankees catcher Jim Leyritz had missed Ripken by that much.

"I thought I had a good view of the play," said Oates. "He said Leyritz made the tag. I said, 'No, he didn't,' and he said, 'We disagree then.'

"From where I was sitting, I thought there was at least six to eight inches of open space [between Leyritz and Ripken]. But I was 50 feet away and he was three away."

Oates said his eruption had nothing to do with any past problems with Shulock. "In my opinion he's one of the best in the league."

Ho-hum, 24 games for Raffy

Almost lost in the shuffle yesterday was the fact that Rafael Palmeiro extended his club-record hitting streak to 24 games.

The first baseman had a pair of singles in five at-bats to raise his average to .351. The 24-game streak is the longest in the major leagues this year.

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