Slump, Devo could drive Gomez back to the bench


June 30, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

CLEVELAND -- Mike Devereaux is nearing a return from the disabled list, which means Leo Gomez is running out of time to break out of a slump.

Gomez, who has a history of streaking in both directions, was in a 1-for-28 drought before he contributed a run-scoring single and double in the Orioles' 7-6 win last night. His average had dipped to .299 before his 2-for-5 performance.

Manager Johnny Oates has several lineup options when Devereaux returns, which could be as soon as tomorrow.

The lineup Oates appears to favor is the one he took out of spring training, the one the Orioles have used only 12 times because of injuries.

Brady Anderson in left, Devereaux in center, Chris Sabo at third base, Gomez on the bench.

"If Devo comes back and can swing the bat at all, we're better off defensively with Devo in the outfield and Sabo at third base," Oates said. "What we have to ask ourselves is: How is this team best? Were we totally wrong coming out of spring training, or are we now just getting back to our best team?"

If Gomez does return to the bench, he won't be buried on it as he was in the opening month of the season. He played in only five of the Orioles' first 19 games.

"I'd like to keep them all fresh and all playing," Oates said. "I just have to sit down and figure out what gives us the best chance of winning, both defensively and scoring runs. I like the way Sabo is playing. I like the way he's swinging the bat."

Will Devereaux, hitting .220, be an everyday player when he returns?

"I would think he is," Oates said.

Gomez sat out Sunday and Monday. Sabo played third both days, after playing the outfield for 15 consecutive games. Sabo returned to the outfield the past two nights, but Gomez is not oblivious to Oates' impending lineup options.

"I'm not happy with my swing right now," Gomez said. "I'm missing too many good pitches and swinging at bad pitches. I'm trying to do too much. You can't do that. You do that, it gets worse and worse."

Gomez made himself a promise before the game.

"Right now, I've got to forget about it," Gomez said. "I said to myself, 'Today's like Opening Day. It's the first day I'm playing.' "

The presence of Sabo keeps Gomez from getting too comfortable.

"It's helped me," Gomez said. "I know if I'm not doing my job, Sabo will go back to playing third base."

On the other hand, Sabo's presence also has made it more difficult for Gomez to relax.

"Sometimes, if you know you are the only third baseman, you are more relaxed," he said. "You know that you are out there every day."

The competition has not strained the relationship between the two third basemen.

For example, Sabo consulted Gomez for a scouting report on last night's starting pitcher, Cleveland right-hander Dennis Martinez.

Not only that, but Gomez also didn't tell Sabo that Martinez was a young left-hander who couldn't throw a breaking ball. He told him the truth.

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