Seeking advice, Bonilla calls Pirates' Leyland Outfielder won't reveal nature of chat in May with his former manager

Orioles Notebook

June 29, 1996|By Buster Olney and Jason LaCanfora | Buster Olney and Jason LaCanfora,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- Orioles slugger Bobby Bonilla confirmed yesterday that last month he called Jim Leyland, his former manager in Pittsburgh, and asked him for advice with a personal situation.

Bonilla would not say what that was exactly, but the call was made at about the time Bonilla's dislike for being the designated hitter had reached its apex.

"I definitely gave Leyland a call," Bonilla said. "He's a man who's dear to me and who I respect incredibly. He's one of the best people in the game, and he taught me how to play. I called him for help in a specific situation. I won't say what it is, but I think everybody has a good idea of what it is.

"It wasn't about being traded, or wanting to go over there [Pittsburgh], or anything like that. I don't want to be traded. I love the fans of Baltimore, but I think they have a misunderstanding of what's gone on."

Surhoff works on slump

B. J. Surhoff hopes his recent slide at the plate is just a product of the natural ups and downs that come with a 162-game season.

Surhoff went 2-for-5 last night, but had three strikeouts. In his last 18 games, Surhoff is 12-for-69 (.174), dropping his average from .310 to .273.

"I'm just trying to get back to where I was," Surhoff said. "I haven't had the kind of success I had early on. Sometimes you go through bad periods."

Surhoff's slump isn't for lack of effort.

He regularly takes extra batting practice with hitting coach Rick Down and he also works on his swing by hitting off a tee. Surhoff's slide has coincided with his return from the disabled list.

Surhoff was on the DL from May 18 until June 1 with a sprained left ankle. He spent the following week at designated hitter before returning to third base.

He has just two home runs in 25 games since coming off the DL, after 10 homers in the first 37 games.

"You just keep going up there battling," Surhoff said. "Things have a way of turning around."

New York state of mind

Bonilla had some words of wisdom for catcher Gregg Zaun before last night's game.

Zaun put cotton balls in his ears while sitting on the bench during Thursday's game to keep out the running commentary and critique offered by Yankees fans. Zaun said the technique worked well but he planned to discard the cotton balls for last night's game since he would be starting.

Bad idea, according to Bonilla.

"I won't hear it tonight, I'm playing," Zaun said.

"Believe me, you'll hear everything," Bonilla responded.

Bonilla received a relentless verbal barrage from the fans in the right-field bleachers on Thursday.

"That's the way New York always is," said Bonilla, a Big Apple native and former member of the New York Mets. "I wasn't surprised at all."

Manager Davey Johnson said Bonilla's move to designated hitter last night had nothing to do with the fans, but was a response to Bonilla's stiff right shoulder.

O's-Yankees intensity back

Cal Ripken said the excitement and energy surrounding this Orioles-Yankees series reminds him of the atmosphere at the games the teams played against each other in the early 1980s.

Ripken said the intensity of the rivalry between the teams dwindled as both teams went into rebuilding stages but he's glad to see the electricity back.

"I remember first coming to Yankee Stadium and it was the best place to play," Ripken said. "There was a constant electricity here. Then the rivalry didn't seem to be the same for a while. Then four years ago it was back. You can feel it again.

"Standing in the middle of a pitching change in the seventh inning of a game here, you look up and can't believe you're playing here."

Once over easy

Outfielder Brady Anderson wanted to break in a new glove yesterday, so he threw it in the microwave and was impressed with the results.

Bill Ripken wanted to try it with his new glove, but decided against it because of the metal facets on his model, a problem Anderson did not have to deal with.

Around the horn

The Yankees have stolen 54 bases this year, after stealing 50 all of last season. . . . The Yankees have hit 66 home runs, second fewest in the American League. . . . When Ripken bobbled a grounder in the third inning it was his ninth error of the season and the second in two games. He made seven errors all of last year and seven in 1994. . . . Wade Boggs became the 33rd hitter in major-league history to reach 500 doubles. . . . Roberto Alomar ended an 0-for-15 slump, going 3-for-5. . . . Outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds hit his first homer for Rochester last night. He's 5-for-34 (.147) with three RBIs since being sent to Triple-A.

Pub Date: 6/29/96

Hits and misses

On the field: Batting in the No. 2 spot for the first time this year, Brady Anderson just missed his 27th homer in the third inning, and he wasn't happy about it. Anderson got under a pitch from Dwight Gooden and hit a high fly to deep right. Anderson moved about 40 feet toward first base, stopped and waited there until right fielder Paul O'Neill made the catch. Anderson turned and ran to the dugout, flipping his helmet before he went into the dugout and throwing his batting gloves afterward.

In the dugout: One alteration in the Orioles' lineup that has gone almost unnoticed is that catcher Gregg Zaun is playing more. Zaun, who started the year as the backup to Chris Hoiles, has started five of the last nine games.

In the clubhouse: "This is not about individuals, it's about a team. Individual awards come at the end of the year. The most important thing is winning games." -- Orioles manager Davey Johnson after changing the lineup yesterday.

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