Newhan appears to dump slump

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

After struggling all month, he has 4 hits in 2 games

Notebook

September 24, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

BOSTON - With about two weeks remaining in the season, David Newhan wants to make sure the impression he leaves on the Orioles doesn't begin to fade along with his production at the plate.

When you're 31 and still trying to become established at the major league level, every day brings its own set of challenges and insecurities.

Newhan was scuffling this month until going 2-for-6 with a double and two-run home run in Wednesday's 7-6, 12-inning loss to the Boston Red Sox.

The home run, Newhan's seventh, gave the Orioles a 4-2 lead. It also demonstrated an approach that he believes will correct the problems that caused him to bat .200 in September.

Newhan, who had two more hits last night, had been patient at the wrong times, falling behind in the count, and wound up chasing pitches out of the strike zone, flailing at breaking stuff that he used to let pass. Before last night, his OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) dropped to .513 this month, compared with 1.324 in June and .815 in July.

"I don't know if maybe it's something mechanical," he said. "I might be striding open a little bit, and it's causing me to be a little late on the inside pitch. I'm aware that they're trying to work me there. And the pitch away, I need to be a little more aggressive with it. I've been trying to be a little too fine with it instead of just letting it go.

"That's what [Barry] Bonds does so well. He'll give them that inside pitch, but once anything comes over the plate, he doesn't miss it."

Newhan hit .442 in June, .333 in July and .302 in August. His overall average, for so long above .400, is now at .313.

"It's been frustrating," he said. "I want to finish strong. But that's how it goes. Pitchers make their adjustments, and I've got to do what I need to do to combat it."

Newhan estimated that he was retired on pitches out of the strike zone in three of his four at-bats against Curt Schilling, who blanked the Orioles over eight innings Tuesday night.

"He's going to get that more often than not because he has two plus-pitches that look the same out of his hand," Newhan said. "But that's not good as a hitter. You've got to make them get you out instead of me getting myself out. It's hard enough hitting strikes."

Gibbons still hurting?

After going 1-for-3 last night, Jay Gibbons is batting .351 (13-for-37) in 10 games since going hitless in 12 straight at-bats.

Does this mean he's fully recovered from the hip flexor injury that put him on the disabled list June 29? Manager Lee Mazzilli doesn't think so.

"I don't believe he's healthy. I don't believe he's 100 percent," Mazzilli said. "I think he's playing hurt, and you admire that."

Bigbie's reality check

A producer for the television reality series The Bachelor is trying to persuade outfielder Larry Bigbie to do the show.

Sam Levinson, who represents Bigbie, received a call Wednesday and agreed to send him an information packet.

"He told them that he didn't think I'd be interested, but he'd run it by me," Bigbie said. "I don't want to interfere with anything baseball-wise. I'm curious why they want me to do it. It's kind of cool, but it's a lot of distractions that I don't think I'd want."

Bigbie believes the filming would take place for only a few weeks during the offseason, but he's likely to resist the same attention that New York Giants backup quarterback Jesse Palmer gained earlier this year while choosing a prospective bride. He's leery of having someone question his commitment to the team, especially if he starts slowly in 2005.

"You're just inviting the public eye into your private life," he said.

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