Johnson fields new plan to get Bonilla untracked Slumping slugger moved from DH role by manager


April 28, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

Worried that Bobby Bonilla's aversion to being the designated hitter is affecting his offense, Orioles manager Davey Johnson switched the slumping slugger back to the outfield yesterday.

Johnson talked with Bonilla about the change after Friday's game, in which Bonilla went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. Johnson also asked Tony Tarasco and Mike Devereaux to bear with the move and share the role of designated hitter, until Bonilla fights his way out of the slump.

"I'm concerned he's associating his hitting woes [with being the designated hitter]," Johnson said. "I talked to him after the game [and said], 'Let's get over this and get something going.' I'll play him more in the outfield on a daily basis, to get him going, and then once he's locked in hitting, we'll see."

Bonilla, buoyant throughout most of last season, appeared discouraged at times Friday night, as his average dipped to .218. "Any time you don't go to the plate relaxed and confident, you're going to be down," said Johnson. "I'm a firm believer you have to enjoy coming to the ballpark and enjoy coming to the clubhouse, and that way you can take your concentration level to the next level, and you can express your talent."

But Johnson would like Bonilla to adapt better when he is the designated hitter.

"It doesn't matter whether you're the DH or not the DH, it shouldn't be a problem with a veteran player when he goes up there to hit. I know myself -- in the latter part of my career, I platooned and pinch-hit.

"You might be sitting for six or seven [innings], but knowing your strengths and weaknesses as a hitter and carrying it [into an at-bat] and knowing how to deal with it is part of hitting. At this level, if you think mentally you can't deal with it, you're defeating yourself. . . .

"Bobby's focus has been on how he's feeling in between plate appearances, and it doesn't matter how he's feeling. You should just try to figure out what the [pitcher] is trying to do."

Bonilla went 0-for-3 again yesterday, his average sliding to .211, and he smiled when asked if he feels any better at the plate. "Absolutely not," he said.

Will playing right field help? "Absolutely," he said. "I almost have to remind people, this is April. We've got five months of baseball left. There's more than one gun on this team."

Anderson ties ex-boss

Brady Anderson hit his 10th homer of the season, tying Frank Robinson's club record for homers in the month of April. He will mention this to his former manager the next time he sees him.

In fact, Anderson said, he will make sure he sees him after this. "I'm just going to stand and stare at him until he acknowledges the record. In fact, I may be calling Frank tonight."

Anderson assumed the AL lead in homers, and he is one shy of the major-league record, held by Willie Stargell (1971), Graig Nettles (1974), Mike Schmidt (1976) and Gary Sheffield (who hit his 11th on Friday). Anderson's homer landed beyond the flag court fence, and he became only the seventh player and third Oriole to hit a ball onto Eutaw Street, the others being Rafael Palmeiro and Kevin Bass.

Mills progressing

Reliever Alan Mills, on a minor-league rehabilitation assignment in Sarasota, Fla., began throwing breaking balls in his last bullpen workout, and he'll throw more when he makes his second outing tomorrow.

Johnson indicated that, assuming Mills doesn't have any setbacks, his next outing will be for Double-A Bowie on May 4.

Reliever Armando Benitez, on the disabled list with a strained flexor muscle in his right elbow, won't begin throwing again for another week. After that, Johnson said his preference would be for Benitez to go on a minor-league rehab assignment. "He's got to go down and use his fastball and his slider," said Johnson.

Around the horn

Texas' Darryl Hamilton went 2-for-4 against Scott Erickson, extending his hitting streak to 11 games and improving his lifetime mark against the right-hander to .462 (12-for-26). . . . The Rangers are 4-0 on Saturdays.

Pub Date: 4/28/96

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