Regan's sixth sense about where to bat Anderson proves correct

July 02, 1995|By KEN ROSENTHAL

TORONTO -- The idea of batting Brady Anderson sixth sounded crazy last winter, but it turns out manager Phil Regan had more vision than anyone thought.

Curtis Goodwin should be the Orioles' leadoff hitter, just as Regan intended. Anderson should bat sixth, even if he ranks second in the league in runs scored.

"I've thought that for a long time," Regan said after yesterday's 6-2 victory over Toronto. "It's something I'm going to think about maybe for the second half."

At the moment, Goodwin's batting average (.370) is higher than Anderson's on-base percentage (.359), but that wouldn't be Regan's only motivation for making the switch.

The Orioles need Anderson to bat sixth because their batting average with Chris Hoiles hitting mainly in that spot is .225. The league average entering yesterday's play was .274.

Regan has tried eight hitters in the No. 6 position, nine in the No. 7 spot. If Anderson drops to sixth, Jeff Manto can bat seventh when he comes off the disabled list. Hoiles can hit eighth, and Jeffrey Hammonds ninth.

The Orioles can't replicate the Cleveland lineup, but why not try? Regan can justify any change by pointing out that his team is seven games out of first place, and ranks 11th in the league in runs scored.

Besides, Regan needs to settle on a lineup. Goodwin and Manny Alexander went a combined 6-for-8 yesterday with a double, triple and homer. They won't hit like that every game, but their speed energizes the top of the order.

"In the long run, we could be a stronger team, if those two guys keep playing like they're playing," Regan said. "One is left-handed, the other is right-handed. If one gets on and the other gets a base hit, it's usually first and third."

Regan can't hit Goodwin first and Anderson second, because that gives him three left-handed hitters at the top of the lineup, with Rafael Palmeiro batting third. As long as Alexander hits, the club is better off this way.

Goodwin has a poor strikeout- to-walk ratio (23:7), but Anderson is not without flaws himself. He rarely bunts. He doesn't take many pitches. And he hasn't stolen a base since June 14.

The trait that distinguishes Anderson as a leadoff man is the same trait that makes him attractive as a No. 6 hitter. He ranks third on the Orioles in extra-base hits and RBIs. He hits for power.

"He's almost the ideal sixth-place hitter," Regan said. "He's very good leading off. But with the type of guys we've got, I think he's more valuable as a power hitter."

The trick now is for Regan to convince Anderson that hitting sixth is in the club's best interests, and his own. Anderson is notoriously stubborn, but he didn't complain when Regan asked him to bat second.

Sixth?

That would be a tougher sell.

"I'm not a sixth hitter. I'm a leadoff hitter, however you look at it," said Anderson, who did not start yesterday because of the flu and lower back pain, but entered the game in the ninth inning as a defensive replacement.

Anderson added: "A leadoff hitter is supposed to score runs. Until I'm not scoring runs, that's where I expect to be."

Yet, as adamant as he sounded one moment, he seemed equally flexible the next.

"I'm not going to fight anything," Anderson said. "If it happens, I'm just going to do what I can to help the team. It doesn't matter, really. I'll play hard no matter where I hit. I don't care."

Said Regan: "When Curtis came up, we talked about hitting second. Brady wasn't overjoyed. But he told me he'd hit where I wanted him to hit. He'd have to think about it for a while. But after he thought about it, I think he'd do it."

Anderson is from the Cal Ripken school -- he works hard, #F maintains a stoic public demeanor and places the team first. As Goodwin noted yesterday, "Brady's a good guy. He didn't come in with an attitude toward me."

What Anderson needs to consider now is his future. It's fine if he still sees himself as a leadoff hitter, but he'll be 32 in January. Goodwin is almost nine years younger.

Think about it -- Goodwin and Hammonds are here, Alex Ochoa and Mark Smith are coming. The Orioles could attempt to trade Anderson, who will be in the final year of his contract next season.

To re-establish his worth, Anderson needs to establish himself as a power hitter. As usual, the Orioles lack one in the outfield. And none of their prospects fits that description.

Goodwin is the leadoff man of the future, and the sooner Anderson recognizes that, the better. Heck, Goodwin even made like Anderson yesterday, hitting a home run and a double off a quality left-hander, Al Leiter.

He has batted .333 in nine starts in the leadoff spot, despite an 0-for-4 against Randy Johnson. He also has stolen 11 bases since joining the club June 2, even though 19 of his 29 starts have been in the No. 9 position.

The Orioles need Brady Anderson, but not to bat leadoff. That job will soon belong to Curtis Goodwin. That plan was what Phil Regan envisioned all along.

ORIOLES TODAY

Opponent: Toronto Blue Jays

Site: SkyDome, Toronto

Time: 1:35 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' John DeSilva (1-0, 5.06) vs. Blue Jays' Woody Williams (0-2, 3.86)

O'S VS. THE LEAGUE

How the Orioles compared to the rest of the American League in the leadoff, sixth and seventh spots entering yesterday's play:

LEADOFF

O's .270 BA .349 OBP 10 SBs

+ AL .269 BA .339 OBP 13 SBs

No. 6

O's .230 BA 10 HRs 29 RBIs

( AL .274 BA 8 HRs 33 RBIs

No. 7

O's .236 BA 14 HRs 29 RBIs

* AL .257 BA 11 HRs 30 RBIs

Source: STATS Inc.

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