Polonia is confident he'll get back in swing Veteran studies tapes, finds no reason for slump

Sidelight

June 25, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Luis Polonia is sure of this: He will hit eventually, and he will hit .300. Now, it's just a matter of identifying the reasons he is hitting .232 and dragging down the Orioles' attack.

Polonia struggled so badly at the plate over the recent homestand that manager Davey Johnson has asked hitting coach Rick Down to attend to him.

"He's a table-setter," Johnson said, "and he's not doing that right now."

Polonia, signed by the Orioles as a free agent in April and promoted from Triple-A Rochester in Polonia May, is hitless in his past 15 at-bats after going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts last night. But he really has no strong sense of what he is doing incorrectly at the plate.

In his hotel room yesterday morning, Polonia reviewed videotapes of his at-bats from early May, when he started slowly, from late May and early June, when he had a hitting spurt, and from Sunday, when he went 0-for-3 with a strikeout and grounded into two double plays.

What he didn't see disturbed him. He didn't see any major difference in his hitting mechanics. He seemed to be bringing the bat through the strike zone OK, in all the tape he saw. He was using his hands well, he thought. There were only minor alterations that, in practice, Polonia doesn't think will mean that much.

"I feel good," Polonia said. "What I need to do is get hot, because when I get hot, I usually get hot for a long time. I'll be all right.

"I wonder what it is. I've thought, 'Am I losing it?' " said Polonia, who'll be 32 in December. "But I don't think [so]. I just need to get going, and then I'll be fine."

Polonia has hit into seven double plays in his first 95 at-bats with the Orioles, a figure that he finds staggering. Polonia had 576 at-bats with California in 1993, and hit into seven double plays. He hit into three double plays in 291 at-bats last year.

"Incredible," Polonia said. "That's not going to happen to me. I'm not used to doing that."

Polonia hit .311 for the Yankees in 1994, then hit .261 for New York last season before being traded to Atlanta. Polonia had a hit in two at-bats for the Braves in the NL Championship Series, and then played in all six World Series games, going 4-for-14 (.286).

However, he was released out of spring training by Seattle. Polonia blamed financial considerations, but Mariners manager Lou Piniella has told others he believes Polonia is losing his skills.

"I know I'm going to hit .300," said Polonia, "and I know I'm going to help this team a lot."

Pub Date: 6/25/96

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