Oates moves bats, hoping to wake them

SIDELIGHT

June 09, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- No team in Orioles history fielded an Opening Day lineup that had hit as many home runs the previous season as the 1994 Orioles, who had combined for 165 homers last season.

Six American League teams had more home runs than the 1994 Orioles heading into last night's games.

Seven hitters in the Orioles' Opening Day lineup had an 80-RBI season to their credit.

Four hitters, including one (Leo Gomez) who was a reserve the first month of the season, were on a pace to drive in 80 runs going into last night's 6-4 victory over the Kansas City Royals.

The Orioles ranked ahead of only the Milwaukee Brewers in runs scored with an average of 4.9 per game, compared to a league average of 5.4.

Playing without right fielder Jeffrey Hammonds for almost six weeks, the Orioles field a starting lineup that includes five hitters batting .239 or lower.

Orioles manager Johnny Oates didn't respond to the sluggishness with a major shake-up when he made out his lineup for last night's game, but he did rearrange a few names.

For the first time this season, Rafael Palmeiro batted somewhere other than third, hitting in the cleanup spot. Cal Ripken moved from fifth to third and Harold Baines dropped from cleanup to fifth.

Oates also dropped slumping Mike Devereaux from second in the order to eighth and inserted Mark McLemore in the No. 2 hole.

"Had to try something," Oates said. "This gives Devo a chance to maybe hit in a slot where he doesn't feel his sole responsibility is to get on base and make things happen."

McLemore, a switch-hitter batting .154 as a right-handed hitter, is treated as a left-handed hitter by opposing managers. By making the McLemore-Devereaux flop the only change, Oates would have left himself with four left-handed hitters followed by five right-handed hitters.

"I don't want four left-handed hitters in a row, so I moved Junior in there," Oates said. "He's swinging pretty well lately. Maybe this way somebody will get on base for Palmeiro and Baines to drive in."

Palmeiro, who went 1-for-5 with an RBI last night, didn't complain about the change.

"I don't mind," Palmeiro said. "I did it for a week once in Texas and it was the best week I had as far as run-producing. Maybe it will work. Maybe it will get our lineup going."

Baines and Ripken both went 2-for-5 in their new spots with one RBI apiece and Devereaux also drove in a run on a 1-for-4 night.

Oates chose not to play Lonnie Smith, Tim Hulett or Chris Sabo in an effort to shake up the offense.

Smith has not batted in a game since May 20, when he went 1-for-3 as DH at Yankee Stadium.

Sabo has not played since going 1-for-4 as DH last Thursday.

"I'm just coming to the yard and keeping my mouth shut," Sabo said.

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