Orioles' Hammonds thrilled to be back in the swing He doubles in 1st at-bat in more than two months

September 24, 1995|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

MILWAUKEE -- Jeffrey Hammonds couldn't believe it when Orioles manager Phil Regan told him to pinch hit for Harold Baines on Friday night. More than two months had passed since Hammonds' previous at-bat, and he wasn't sure whether he would hit again in 1995.

Regan told Hammonds that Baines would play every day, get every at-bat, until he hit his 300th homer. But in the sixth inning Friday, Baines hammered No. 300, and two innings later, Regan informed Hammonds that he would bat for Baines in the ninth.

"Jeffrey kept saying, 'Are you kidding? Are you serious?' " Regan remembered yesterday, smiling.

Regan was serious, and batting against Milwaukee Brewers left-hander Sid Roberson, he pulled a line drive down the left-field line, a double.

"I was kind of kidding him," Regan said. "I told him that we had to get him an at-bat because Bobby Bonilla had never seen him hit. Guys were really happy for him, yelling from the dugout as he was hitting.

"I think it was important for him, going into the off-season. First time up after the layoff and he doubles. That's great."

Hammonds said: "This was big. . . . I just wanted to come back and show the team I wanted to play."

Hammonds has been trying to make that point all year. He had reconstructive knee surgery in October 1994 and wanted to be ready to play when the season started. He was, but wearing a brace, his movement was restricted.

Then, in July, he strained his right trapezius, and Hammonds couldn't throw anymore. Repeated published reports in August quoted an anonymous source within the organization that Hammonds would not play again this year.

But Regan and general manager Roland Hemond said, in response, that they wanted Hammonds -- even if he couldn't play in the field -- to get some at-bats by year's end, for his own peace of mind, if nothing else.

That's precisely how Hammonds' season has played out: Regan said Hammonds may get a couple of starts at designated hitter.

Hammonds said: "I wanted to be in there with the fellas before the end of the year. You know, we didn't have a lot of these guys when I was playing before.

"I'm having fun. I kept my chin up. I kept my confidence up, and I worked at it. . . . Do you think I would've come out there and busted my behind if I didn't think I could come back and play before the end of the year? That wouldn't make any sense."

In the end, there was a payoff for Jeffrey Hammonds.

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