McLemore back in '93 swing of things

SIDELIGHT

June 22, 1994|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Sun Staff Writer

Viewed through the prism of his entire career, it would have been tempting to view Mark McLemore's breakthrough 1993 as something of a fluke.

There was nothing in McLemore's past to indicate that he could put up the kind of numbers that he produced last year, with career-high figures in every offensive category.

In fact, even McLemore will acknowledge that his chances of matching or exceeding the 72 RBIs he posted in 1993 are pretty remote.

"It will be tough for me to get 72 RBIs in the eight or nine slot, but as long as I hit the way I'm capable, the numbers will be where they're supposed to be," said McLemore.

Early on, it appeared a return to the .284 batting average McLemore racked up last year seemed unlikely, too, as he entered the home series with the Chicago White Sox on June 3 with a .225 mark.

Since then, however, McLemore has been on a tear, with hits in 11 of of his past 13 games.

During the streak, McLemore is 20-for-50, a .400 average, raising his average to .265.

"I'm feeling a lot better. The feeling's here again," said McLemore. "It was just a couple of mechanical things and once I got them worked out, things got better."

McLemore wouldn't disclose what his early-season mechanical flaws were, but he is back driving the ball into the alleys like last year.

"I think security is really the thing," said manager Johnny Oates. "He knows he's an everyday player and as long as he's playing, it doesn't matter to him where he's playing or where he's hitting."

McLemore saw time last year at three positions, his natural slot at second base, right field and third base, but has been used almost entirely at second this season.

"I come prepared to play anywhere every day," McLemore said.

For this season, though, it seems McLemore's versatility will be displayed in different lineup slots, rather than different defensive positions.

Though he has made the lion's share of starts batting in the eighth position, McLemore has hit second, ninth -- even leadoff in Sunday's 10-4 loss to Minnesota.

It was the first time since last Aug. 25 anyone other than Brady Anderson had hit leadoff, and McLemore's success (2-for-5) suggests he might get a few more tries there.

Anderson (.340) and McLemore (.367) have fairly similar on-base percentages, but McLemore has struck out fewer times (48-30), drawn just two fewer walks (35-33), and is batting 26 points higher.

Oates said that with Chris Sabo's hot streak, McLemore, a switch-hitter who is batting over 100 points better from the left side, is helping the club best now at the bottom of the lineup, where his speed can make for better pitches for Anderson and Sabo.

That speed presented itself last Wednesday, when McLemore came on in the eighth inning against New York to pinch run for Rafael Palmeiro. He promptly stole second, and came around to score the tying run in an 8-4 win.

"Mac is a guy who can do a lot for you no matter where he hits. I'm glad to have him," said Oates.

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