Hitting-wise, Alomar is feeling just fine Second baseman adds HR, 2 doubles to torrid return


September 21, 1997|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

Ask Roberto Alomar how he is feeling physically these days, and he says, "I'm not even close to being 90 percent healthy."

But the All-Star second baseman is strictly evaluating his mobility in the field and his ability to run the bases. Hitting-wise, he couldn't be better.

Since returning to the lineup from a groin pull Sept. 8, Alomar is batting .500 (23-for-46) including six doubles, two homers and 12 RBIs while raising his average from .298 to a team-high .322 among the regulars.

Yesterday at Camden Yards was typical of his torrid streak. He rapped two doubles and a home run as the Orioles won a 12-8 slugfest with the Detroit Tigers.

"I'm going up there thinking I'm going to get a hit every at-bat," said Alomar, who is restricted to hitting left-handed because of a sore left shoulder. "I'm seeing the ball great, and everything I hit is just falling in the right places."

There's nothing complex about his approach at the plate.

"I just try to hit the ball where it's pitched," he said matter-of-factly. "If they pitch me away, I try to hit it to left. If the pitch is inside, I try to pull it. I just go up there looking for a ball I can hit."

Easy for Alomar to say.

"People say he's in a zone now," said Orioles hitting coach Rick Down. "But they forget that he was batting over .400 for almost three months the beginning of last season.

"When Robby is hot, he has the ability to hit the ball everywhere. Check his hitting chart, and you'll see almost an even breakdown of hits to left, center and right.

"If the third baseman tries to take away the bunt, he'll slap it past him. If the third baseman plays back, when Robby's legs are right, he'll drop a bunt down for a hit.

"That's why this current streak is so amazing. There hasn't been a single scratch hit. He's hit nothing but line drives. There's nothing he can't do with a bat in his hand."

Orioles manager Davey Johnson is even more effusive in discussing Alomar's batting skills.

"I had the good fortune of watching [shortstop] Barry Larkin on a regular basis in Cincinnati," recalled Johnson, who spent three years managing the Reds. "If you needed a hit or the long ball, Larkin delivered. Robby has the same ability, love of the game and instincts as Larkin. He's as good a hitter as I've seen."

And do not be deceived by his 6-foot, 185-pound frame.

"When Alomar takes off his uniform, you can see how strong he is," said Down. "He's not your average middle infielder. He's a gifted player who can hit consistently and with power."

While Alomar has missed 48 games due to a groin pull, shoulder and ankle injuries, Johnson has found more than adequate replacements at second base in Aaron Ledesma and Jeff Reboulet.

"They've done a great job filling in," said Down. "But realistically, you can't replace a Roberto Alomar. For us to be successful in the postseason, he's got to be out there every game."

Within the next week, Alomar said he will experiment by taking batting practice right-handed.

"I've been giving my shoulder time to heal," said the switch-hitter, who came into this season with a .302 average. "When it feels better, then I'll try hitting from the other side again. But right now, it doesn't seem to matter if a lefty or righty is pitching."

Asked if he would like to see Alomar switch-hitting before the season ends, Johnson smiled and said, "The way he's going, Robby can hit any way he wants."

Returnee rampage

After going 0-for-2 in his first game back, Roberto Alomar is 23-for-44 (.523) in his past 12 games, with six doubles, three homers and 12 RBIs.

Date, H-AB

9/8, 0-2

9/9, 3-3

9/12, 2-4

9/13, 1-3

9/14, 3-4

9/15, 1-1

9/15, 2-4

9/16, 1-4

9/16, 3-4

9/17, 2-4

9/18, 0-4

9/19, 2-4

9/20, 3-5

Pub Date: 9/21/97

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