McLemore turns doubts into O's double plays


June 29, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

CLEVELAND -- Yes, he hit .284 last season and yes he has good range and is a threat to steal a base, but can he turn the double play?

Mark McLemore heard the whispers over the winter, in the spring, early in the season.

He pleads not guilty to the charge.

"I've heard a lot about not being able to turn the double play, but I honestly don't know where that came from," McLemore said. "I can hang in there with anybody. For one thing, there aren't many second basemen my size. I weigh 200 pounds. Not many second basemen are that big."

The Orioles turned 21 double plays in their first 37 games and 40 in their next 37.

Does this mean McLemore improved at the art? "We've just had more opportunities," he said.

It's not as though McLemore does not recognize any weaknesses or diminishing of skills. He acknowledges his arm is not as strong now as it was before he suffered elbow injuries in 1988 and 1990.

It has diminished his range, he said.

What? He didn't have foot surgery. He had arm surgery.

"It depends on what you consider range," he said. "For me, range isn't just getting to balls. Range is where you can throw them out from. I can still get to as many balls as I ever could. When I was younger, if I got to the ball, I threw the guy out, period. Now, after the surgeries, I might throw him out or I might not."

The move to the outfield last season in a way helped his development as an infielder.

"Playing right field helped my arm strength, but it's not like it was before my surgeries," McLemore said. "When I first came up, I had a shortstop's arm."

McLemore has exhibited above-average range and has been turning the double play smoothly of late.

He also has broken from a slow start at the plate. In the past 20 games, McLemore is hitting .347 with five stolen bases. During that stretch, he raised his average from .225 to .263.

Batting from the No. 2 hole last season, McLemore hit a career-high .284.

"I loved hitting second last year and I also like leading off," McLemore said. "I just like hitting no matter where I'm hitting. I like hitting because I know I can do it. I have more confidence now. I always felt I could hit. Now I know I can. Knowing you can do it and feeling you can do it are two different things.

"I like hitting, especially when I know there are people out there who think I can't do it. I know there were people who thought when I was hitting .220 early this year that that was the real me, but I knew I wasn't going to hit .220 all year."

McLemore led off in Brady Anderson's only non-start of the season and would have led off last night if Anderson's strained right hamstring kept him out of the lineup.

"When I was in the minor leagues, that's what I was," McLemore said. "I led off every day. Every day. No resting."

He isn't leading off for the Orioles, but he is playing nearly every day. He has played in 70 of the Orioles' 74 games.

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