Conine, Amaral make selves at home on bases

Sidelight

Newcomers shake slumps with 5 hits, steal, 2 RBIs

May 03, 1999|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Before taking the field for yesterday's game against the Minnesota Twins, Orioles first baseman Jeff Conine had a brief chat with hitting coach Terry Crowley. Buried beneath a 1-for-19 slump, he was open to any suggestions.

Even the simple ones.

"He told me to go up there and let it go. If I get a pitch in the strike zone, let it go. Don't wait for that perfect pitch down the middle. It might not come," Conine said.

"You've got to hit a strike. Not a perfect strike, just a strike."

Conine and Rich Amaral saw a few of them yesterday and didn't miss. And because of their contributions, the Orioles didn't blow another chance to win their first series, defeating the Minnesota Twins, 6-0, at Camden Yards.

Starting his 11th game at first base since Will Clark went on the disabled list with a fractured thumb, Conine produced his second multi-hit game of the season. He singled twice and tripled in four at-bats, scored a run and lifted his average 50 points to .180.

Amaral, starting in center field for Brady Anderson, had been 1-for-20 this season before going 2-for-3 with two RBIs.

"We're both pretty good career hitters, and I don't think either of us felt that we were as bad as we've been showing lately," Conine said. "It's nice to string a few hits together. You can't give up. This game will beat you down in a hurry. It's a tough, mental game, but you have to keep working and keep after it."

Good advice for Conine, who was starved for at-bats earlier in the season before being force-fed after Clark's injury.

"Up to this point I've been a starter my whole career," said Conine, who joined the Orioles at the end of spring training after a trade with the Kansas City Royals. "Coming into this situation is something I'm not used to, but if that's my role on this team, I've got to adapt. I'm adjusting."

During his period of struggles, Conine has been removed for pinch hitters and asked to lay down sacrifice bunts.

"It's been very frustrating," he said. "I think it's been even more frustrating because the times I've been hitting the ball, I've hit it hard. My batting practice had been great. Usually when that goes bad is when you start having problems, but I've felt good in BP and in the games."

Conine didn't hesitate going for the triple leading off the fourth, on a drive into right-center field. "When you get to second base with a full head of steam and he hasn't picked up the ball yet, you have to go for third," he said.

He didn't stay there long. With one out, Amaral lined a double into left field, then stole his first base. He had singled with one out in the second, and added a sacrifice fly in the fifth to account for the Orioles' last run.

"It's nice to be able to drive in a couple runs and feel like part of the team," he said.

Amaral, a career .278 hitter who went from .050 to .130 yesterday, said he didn't believe Crowley's assessment of Conine applied to him. "I hit the ball hard a few times but right at somebody," he said.

"Not playing every day, you're timing's not always great. And hitting's weird. You get a couple little flares in and you feel like you're a great hitter. You line out three times and you feel like you failed. Just battle. Every day's a new day."

This one was different. It provided the Orioles with their first series win since September.

"It's hard to believe with the talent we have in here," Conine said. "You wouldn't have found a person in this room or any room in the country that would have thought it would take this long. Now we've got to build on it. We've got to string them together."

Pub Date: 5/03/99

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