Hammonds returns more relaxed, more selective Outfielder learns patience in stay at Rochester

Sidelight

August 14, 1996|By Kevin Langbaum | Kevin Langbaum,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

A new mental approach and some help from his friends havehelped Orioles left fielder Jeffrey Hammonds get off to a hot start after his stint in Triple-A.

"I'm a lot more relaxed," Hammonds said before last night's game. "I feel a lot more confident in myself. I lost my confidence when I was playing bad. I was second-guessing everything I was doing."

Hammonds was demoted to Rochester on June 17 after struggling through the first 11 weeks of the season. One of the concerns of manager Davey Johnson was Hammonds' pitch selection -- he was overanxious, swinging at bad pitches, often early in the count.

That, too, has changed. Johnson has seen a more selective Hammonds since his recall July 31.

"One of the things about Jeffrey is he's a little more patient at home plate," Johnson said. "He still hasn't really found himself. He's still feeling his way."

Hammonds has been working with hitting instructor Rick Down to improve his selection.

"To me, the bottom line is what pitches you swing at," Down said. "His pitch selection is very good. He's getting his count, swinging at 2-0 and not 0-2."

Hammonds said: "Rick Down is constantly in my ear, saying just swing at your pitch. I still want to be aggressive."

Hammonds found his stroke in Rochester after struggling initially. He ended up hitting .272 in 34 games with three home runs and 19 RBIs. He was in the midst of an 11-game hit streak when he was recalled.

He has three home runs already in his two weeks back with the Orioles, giving him a career-high nine for the year. His eight RBIs and eight runs scored -- including a four-RBI day Aug. 7 in Milwaukee -- has helped solidify the bottom third of the lineup.

"The team's playing well, that's first and foremost," he said. "I'm coming up in a lot of situations where a hit is huge. The old cliche is hitting is contagious.

"I'm playing everyday since I've been back and having Robbie [Alomar] batting behind me, that makes it a whole lot easier."

Hammonds tailed off slightly after his fast start and his 0-for-5 last night dropped his average to .232, five points lower than when he left. But the 25-year-old former first-round draft pick is intent on keeping his spot in the lineup.

"I've had the opportunities before and I just didn't capitalize on it," he said. "I realize when I walk into the clubhouse that I have a chance to play every day. And I think I can play every day."

Pub Date: 8/14/96

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