Hammonds takes swing at winning fresh start Looking to disprove past, he's hitting .636 with 3 HRs

March 05, 1997|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Jeffrey Hammonds wants a fresh start not just on the field, but also in the minds of the Orioles officials who soon will determine his baseball future.

There have been whispers that the organization has soured on him. That he paved his way out of Baltimore when he let it be known that he was disappointed not to be included in the traveling party for the postseason last year. That he soon will be packaged in a deal to further improve the Orioles' starting rotation.

Hammonds wants to make everyone forget the past, and he is doing everything he can -- on the field -- to prove that he still wants to be all that the Orioles thought he could be when they made him their first-round choice in the 1992 June draft.

He hit his third home run of the spring and also doubled yesterday to raise his exhibition average to an impressive .636.

It's early, but if he continues to swing the bat with authority, maybe he can convince general manager Pat Gillick and manager Davey Johnson that he's worth keeping.

"I hope so," Hammonds said. "Davey's letting me play. I'm not bellyaching. I'm not limping. Everything is working. He just wants to see me play the game and that's what's going on right now."

Despite rumors to the contrary, Johnson expressed hope yesterday that Hammonds emerges as a front-line player, and not just to raise his trade value.

"He is working his butt off," Johnson said. "We feel he has had the time. He has had an opportunity to do it. He has had to fight himself at times, but that has made him a little more determined.

"I still love Jeffrey. I want him to establish here, not somewhere else. He needs to do it here."

The problem will be finding a place for him. The outfield appears to be set, with B. J. Surhoff in left, Brady Anderson in center and Eric Davis in right. The Orioles don't figure to keep Hammonds as a bench player, so he has to play well enough to convince the club to use Surhoff as the full-time DH to crack the starting lineup.

"We have a good team and I know I can help this team," Hammonds said. "I didn't want to be questioned as a ballplayer. I want to come in and re-establish that I can play consistently."

If there isn't room in the Orioles lineup, there apparently are several teams that have expressed interest in acquiring Hammonds, so a big spring could greatly enhance his chances of being an everyday player, even if it isn't in Baltimore.

Pub Date: 3/05/97

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