'Pac Man' gobbles up his hits with others' O's defensive wizard proves adept with bat during recent hot streak

Orioles Sidelight

September 20, 1997|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Mike Bordick never has been on fire at the plate this year, but lately he's been much warmer to the touch.

So adept at swallowing up ground balls that he's earned the nickname "Pac Man," Bordick has become the Orioles' hit man. He begins today on a 22-for-62 (.355) tear, raising his season's average from .216 to .233. He also exceeded last year's home run total Thursday by collecting his sixth, two short of his career high.

"Who knows if I can put a finger on it?" he said. "A couple weeks ago, Davey [Johnson] spoke to me, and so did [hitting coach] Rick Down. It was more of a mechanics-type thing. We worked on trying to not come off the ball. Keep the front shoulder in and down. We were trying to find something that was comfortable for me. One way or another, it seems things are kind of coming together."

Not long ago, they were coming apart. Bordick endured a 1-for-34 stretch last month, just as he had suffered through an 11-for-75 slump to begin the season that included no RBIs.

For Bordick, patience has been a virtue.

"I've been more selective," he said. "I feel good about my pitch selection, the pitches I'm swinging at. When you don't have success, a lot of times you're not swinging at good pitches. Lately, some of the counts have been in my favor and I've been able to put a good part of the wood on the ball."

Patience only goes so far, though. He's become more aggressive in the strike zone, as Johnson noted after Thursday's game.

"It's a pretty basic rule," Bordick said. "It's a matter of forcing yourself to do that, try to stay consistent with that."

"He was doing it in spurts," Down said. "Now, he's doing it more often. The things he's been working on all year are starting to click. It's not a new stance or new approach or anything. He works hard. He's a grinder. It was just a matter of time."

Bordick said he's feeling more at ease when he comes to the plate, but that could be from the improved results. "Maybe that's because I've gotten a few hits lately," he said.

Even without the offensive awakening, his season wouldn't have been a bust. Defensively, he's been everything the Orioles had hoped, as they were reminded Thursday with his diving stop in the seventh inning that kept the ball in the infield, and kept the tying run from scoring.

Last night, he turned a first-inning double play despite being taken out hard by Detroit's Bobby Higginson.

"Every player, and I don't care if they're labeled as not being hitters, still takes pride when they step in the box in doing well," said Bordick, who had one of only five hits off Tigers starter Willie Blair. "But there are other parts of the game. Defense, and getting bunts down, things like that."

He speaks of just wanting to do something to help the club win, but also knows the added punch he can provide at the bottom of the order improves those chances.

"Offensively, all year it's been up and down. Hopefully, I can get on to something and stay consistent the rest of the way through," he said.

"I'm not going to be able to hit .300. I'm not going to hit .250. But I can do something to help us win a pennant."

He had done plenty before September rolled around. Now, he's providing the Orioles with something extra, and at the right time.

"The last month or so, he's really stung the ball," Johnson said. "He's hit the ball all over."

Perhaps his offensive failings are the same.

All over.

Pub Date: 9/20/97

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