Davis has strong hold on 22-game streak Right-handed lineup gives Hammonds shot in center, Hoiles a chance at DH

Orioles Notebook

August 06, 1998|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Christian Ewell contributed to this article.

Orioles manager Ray Miller broke out a predominantly right-handed lineup yesterday against Detroit left-hander Justin Thompson, starting Jeffrey Hammonds in center field and batting Chris Hoiles fifth as his designated hitter. The changes fortified Miller's bench with left-handed hitters Brady Anderson, Harold Baines and Rich Becker.

Passing by the manager's office and glancing at the lineup, Eric Davis joked about Miller giving away his DH job. But Davis kept busy, starting in right field on consecutive days for the first time since late June. He also extended his hitting streak to 22 games with a first-inning double, tying him with four others for the second-longest stretch in club history.

Miller commented before the game that Davis seems to have regained most of the strength he lost during last year's battle with colon cancer. He no longer becomes fatigued after playing more than a few days in a row. Yesterday's start was his 23rd straight.

"My strength is fine. It's getting better," Davis said. "I think DH-ing helped me tremendously."

Meanwhile, Miller is keeping his fingers crossed that Hammonds continues to progress from his injuries and produce when given the chance.

The outfielder still is bothered by a painful left wrist as he returns from a disk-related nerve disorder in his neck that put him on the disabled list retroactive to June 3. Having persuaded Miller to keep him active while working through the discomfort, Hammonds went into yesterday's game with five hits in his last six at-bats, including his sixth homer Sunday in Kansas City.

He singled twice Tuesday night, coming up as a pinch hitter in the sixth inning and driving in Roberto Alomar for a 3-0 lead and lining another hit in the eighth. Yesterday, after skipping batting practice again to lessen the strain on his wrist, he struck out four times (three looking) before Baines pinch hit for him in the eighth.

Though Anderson began yesterday with the league's lowest average against left-handers, .143, Miller said he won't be lured into a center-field platoon with Hammonds, who also was charged with a second-inning error.

"Things are going to turn around a little bit for him," Miller said of Anderson. "I like the way he's going about things right now. He's still got a lot of baseball left in him. As far as Jeffrey playing every day, that's going to be up to Jeffrey."

Anderson has been taking extra batting practice to get more comfortable hitting pitches the other way. He got away from that early in the year while playing with a strained muscle in his chest, pulling off pitches rather than keeping his front side in because of the pain that came from swinging through the ball.

Miller, Foley commiserate

Miller had an interesting chat on Tuesday with Rochester manager Marv Foley, who complained of a thin middle-relief corps that was making it difficult to get to closer Bobby Munoz. Miller had been in the same boat for much of this season, unable to position his club to win in the late innings because games were being fumbled early by a bullpen in chaos.

"I said, 'That sounds familiar,' " Miller said.

Not anymore. Suddenly, Miller has a surplus of long/middle relievers. Pete Smith, Doug Johns and Doug Drabek have been joined, at least temporarily, by Jimmy Key and Scott Kamieniecki, bringing order to the bullpen and giving Miller numerous options.

Ineffective as a starter, Smith has allowed just one run in 11 relief innings.

"Obviously, Smitty's done a great job for us," Miller said. "When you compare what we were getting out of [Terry] Mathews and look at what Smith has done for us, he's come in and been able to get out of an inning and give us another inning behind that to bridge the gap.

"Alan Mills has been used pretty much in the sixth, seventh inning and done a good job for us, and that basically gives you the two [Jesse Orosco and Armando Benitez] on the end. I went two months were I used Mills and [Arthur] Rhodes in the fourth, fifth and sixth."

With no game today, Miller won't need to worry about a fifth starter until Tuesday in Tampa Bay, giving Key and Kamieniecki more time in the bullpen. Key still has pain in his left shoulder, though he's willing to pitch through it, and Kamieniecki has struggled in two starts since coming off the DL.

There's room for only one of them in the rotation after last week's trade for Juan Guzman and the continued emergence of rookie Sidney Ponson.

Berroa back in town

Former Oriole Geronimo Berroa appeared in both games for the Tigers in his first visit to Camden Yards since changing teams. He played right field for the last three innings Tuesday after Bobby Higginson was ejected for critiquing John Hirschbeck's wide strike zone from the Tigers' dugout, and went 0-for-3 yesterday as the DH.

Berroa began the year in Cleveland after the Orioles failed to resign him over the winter, but was on the disabled list when the Indians came here and didn't make the trip. He was traded to Detroit on June 24.

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