Faith of Batista, team is rewarded

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Club remained confident slugger would rebound

pain-free day for Mora

Notebook

May 06, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Orioles manager Mike Hargrove likes to give some credit to his hitting coach for the offensive resurgence of third baseman Tony Batista.

Batista chooses a higher authority.

"Last year was one of those years I realized you're nothing without God," said Batista, whose nine home runs are tied for second in the American League. "I think my faith is more strong this year. God is giving me the power."

Batista had hit safely in 16 of his past 19 games, batting .319 with seven homers and 20 RBIs, before going 0-for-4 yesterday in the Orioles' 3-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals. His 27 RBIs are tied for fourth in the league.

This is the same player who hit 41 homers for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2000, but didn't make it past June the following season before the Blue Jays - tired of his .207 average and refusal to make adjustments - placed him on waivers. The Orioles claimed him, hoping he could replace Cal Ripken and perhaps regain the stroke that had made him one of baseball's most feared right-handed hitters.

"Obviously he has the same batting style and stance, but I think he's getting set a little sooner, not rushing into it as much as he was," Hargrove said. "When things start to go bad, like they did for Tony in Toronto, it takes on a life of its own. It takes a lot of dedicated work to get out of it. It doesn't happen overnight. Once he got here, he worked real hard with Terry Crowley and he ended up hitting well for us."

An unpopular figure on the road when he started ahead of Ripken, Batista batted .266 with 12 homers in 84 games with the Orioles to raise hopes within the organization that he could become a force in the lineup. Just give him a full year with the club, they reasoned, and the home runs should come.

Since they are, shouldn't he feel some vindication after the way the Blue Jays dismissed him?

"I don't see it that way," he said. "I'm just happy because God gave me a chance with this team and I'm doing good."

A safe outing

Yesterday's game passed without Melvin Mora being hit by a pitch, a newsworthy event if you're him.

Mora began the day leading the majors in posing as a bull's-eye. He had been nailed eight times, six fewer than all of last season, when he tied for sixth in the league.

"They like to pitch me mostly inside. Sometimes I get hit this much," he said, making a sweeping motion with his hand brushing across his chest. "I don't care. If they hit me, I'm going to first base. It doesn't matter how I get on base."

There are less painful ways. Mora grimaces when he recalls the fastball that bore into his right thigh, or the one that crashed into his left elbow.

"Most of the time I don't try to get hit by pitches because I don't want to be on the disabled list," he said. "I don't know how many times I've been hit this year, but it's a lot right now."

Gil on the mend

Catcher Geronimo Gil missed his sixth consecutive game with a strained left groin and right hamstring. He hasn't played since going 2-for-2 with his fifth home run in last Monday's 5-3 win in Boston, before Tony Clark slid into him at home plate and caused the injuries.

Gil had hit safely in six consecutive games, going 12-for-24 with three doubles, four homers and 11 RBIs. He picked the wrong time to go to the bench.

"I feel better," said Gil, who ran before yesterday's game and predicted that he could play tonight or tomorrow.

Segui awaits word

The Orioles had no further updates on David Segui, who can't play because of a sore left wrist. He received a cortisone shot before Saturday's game, and the Orioles figure to know more today about the severity of the injury.

"We do know with certainty it's not the hamate bone," Hargrove said.

Segui was hoping to avoid the same layoffs as last season, when he missed games with an assortment of injuries and illnesses. The most serious, to his left knee, restricted him to one game after Aug. 23.

"You know it's not because he wants it to happen or he's not a tough guy. He's a hard-nosed player," Hargrove said. "David plays when David can play. He's not one of these guys who has to be 100 percent. There are guys who won't play if they have a hang nail. All the injuries he's had since he's been here have been real legitimate ones."

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