Miffed Sabo calls benching 'ridiculous'

SIDELIGHT

May 28, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- The way Leo Gomez has been swinging the bat the past three weeks, there isn't anyone in baseball who wouldn't put his name in the lineup.

Make that almost anyone.

Chris Sabo, the man temporarily relegated to a platoon designated hitter role, would not be starting Gomez at third base, as has Orioles manager Johnny Oates. In fact, he says it's "ridiculous."

"I'm the third baseman when I'm healthy," Sabo said. "I'm not the one who hit .190 the year before."

Sabo is right. He didn't hit .190 last season. He hit .259. Gomez hit .197.

This season?

After last night's series opener against the Chicago White Sox at Comiskey Park, Gomez has 84 at-bats, Sabo 80, which makes for easy production comparisons.

Sabo is batting .238 with 10 extra-base hits, nine RBIs and a .442 slugging percentage. Gomez is batting .321 with 15 extra-base hits, 18 RBIs and a .595 slugging average.

Oates, who lobbied for the signing of Sabo, is riding Gomez's hot streak for all it's worth.

"I'd have to be goofy to take Leo out of there the way he's hitting now," Oates said before the game. "I like the depth we have there."

Informed of Sabo's comments after the game, Oates said, "He hasn't said anything to me, and I'm the only one that can do anything about it. Leo's swinging the bat too good right now. Chris will just have to weather the storm."

Gomez (1-for-4) started at third base last night and Sabo (1-for-3) was the designated hitter against left-hander Wilson Alvarez.

Sabo was on the disabled list from May 7 to May 22 with a strained back. When Sabo returned, Gomez was on such a hot streak the only opening for Sabo was as the part-time DH.

Sabo never had to deal with reserve duty during his six years with Cincinnati. When he was healthy, he was the Reds' third baseman. His all-out style of play reminded Cincinnati fans of the original Charlie Hustle, Pete Rose.

Bothered on and off by back problems, Sabo has only been able to show flashes of that style to Baltimore fans.

By outward appearances, he hasn't seemed to feel a big part of the team. Asked if he agreed with that assessment, Sabo said, "I signed a one-year contract with the Orioles, so I'm here for 1994."

Does he expect to return to the Orioles after this year?

"I have no idea," said Sabo, 32. "The way baseball is nowadays you never know. I'm sure I'll go somewhere and be a part of the team. Last year I had a good year and didn't get hardly any offers. Maybe if I have a terrible year I'll get a ton of offers."

Sabo has not taken his playing-time dissatisfaction to Oates.

"We'll just wait and see how it goes the next couple of days,"

Sabo said. "Maybe everyone will be real proud of how I'm keeping my mouth shut."

Oates was willing to promise nothing last night.

"Chris is going to help us," he said, "but I don't know what's going to happen at third base for the rest of the year right now."

Sabo disagreed that he is frustrated with not playing regularly at third base after returning from the disabled list. He used a stronger word.

"It's ridiculous," Sabo said.

"I have nothing to prove. My average seems to be higher than some of the guys playing every day. But I guess they play a different position than I do."

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