O's Anderson streaks back into production

SIDELIGHT

June 01, 1994|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Sun Staff Writer

Brady Anderson knows plenty about burying prolonged hitting slumps.

Two months into last season, Anderson was plagued by sore knees and a sick bat, as his batting average plummeted to a season-low .211.

But even a two-week, midseason bout with the chickenpox, resulting in a trip to the disabled list, couldn't keep Anderson from completing a fine season by hitting .297 over his final 88 games.

His good health notwithstanding, the 1994 season has unfolded in similar fashion for Anderson. After stumbling to a .206 average in his first 35 games, Anderson has reversed his fortunes during the past two weeks by putting together a career-high 13-game hitting streak.

"It was a big hole. Last year, I struggled, and I would have liked to have avoided another one," said Anderson, who raised his average to .242 with a 3-for-5 effort in last night's 7-6 loss to Detroit.

"I feel fine, but I feel like I could be swinging the bat a lot better than I've shown [during the streak]. I've had a lot of 1-for-5 games," added Anderson, who also has chipped in five multi-hit games during his resurgence.

"You have to make up your mind that when you hit the ball hard and make an out, not to get frustrated. That's the toughest part."

Orioles hitting coach Greg Biagini said he noticed during Anderson's slump that he wasn't keeping his weight back on his left leg. That often resulted in Anderson "drifting" into the ball and pulling too many pitches, resulting in too many routine outs.

"When he was swinging bad, everything was pulled, no matter where the pitch was," Biagini said. "Now, he's starting to hit more balls to the other side of the field. He's hitting the ball where it's pitched.

That was clearly in evidence last night.

In the first inning, Anderson ripped a Mike Moore fastball on the outer half of the plate into the left-center-field gap for his 11th double, then scored the game's first run on a single by Mike Devereaux.

Two at-bats later against Moore, he pulled a single into right field. Against Buddy Groom in the seventh, Anderson fueled a two-run rally by using the opposite field again, lining a single to left.

He concluded his night in the bottom of the ninth by barely missing a game-tying, leadoff home run. The ball was caught on the warning track by right fielder Junior Felix.

"His style isn't always what you look for in a leadoff hitter, but Brady has more power than most leadoff hitters," Biagini said. "He strikes out a lot [34 times in 198 at-bats], but he also gets his walks [25]. There's some give and take in there."

"It's not really about mechanics," Anderson said. "You get to the point where you play baseball for so long, it [a slump] becomes a mental thing. The main thing is to relax and see the ball. If you're seeing the ball well and keeping your head down on the ball, you're going to get hits."

Even while his batting average was sinking, Anderson continued to help the Orioles with his ability to get on base and with his superb defense in left field. And as his bat has warmed up, Anderson has looked more like the player who has been one of the league's better leadoff hitters in recent years.

His 25 walks give him a respectable on-base average of .335, which is a big reason he is second on the team in runs scored with 32.

Anderson has yet to commit an error in 48 games. He has played all but two innings of the season, which is one inning more than Cal Ripken has performed.

And, as evidence that his knees are sound, Anderson has moved into seventh place in the league with 12 steals, and has been thrown out only once.

Six of those steals have come during his hitting streak. He is the first player in Orioles history to record at least 10 steals in six consecutive seasons.

"I just try to keep plugging along every day. I know I'm not going to feel good swinging the bat every day," said Anderson, who dismissed the idea of taking a day off in the midst of his slump.

"It's such a long season. I've got over 400 at-bats to go this year. It's nice to have a hitting streak. It doesn't feel good when you go home without a hit."

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