The pundits are trying to attribute the surge to greater strength, greater size and/or greater incentive.
But to Rene Gonzales, his success so far with the California Angels comes down to one thing: greater opportunity.
"Everybody is looking for some big answer," the former Oriole said about his .305 batting average and five home runs, one short of his previous career total.
"But my motivation has always been the same, playing every day. I think I'm just taking advantage of it. I'm on the field and that's the difference."
Last night, he jump-started the Angels' offense with a bases-clearing triple off Rick Sutcliffe in the first inning and later drew two walks.
Gonzales has been labeled a good-field, no-hit utility player throughout a checkered career with the Expos, Orioles and Blue Jays. But he has never played regularly for an extended time at any of his stops.
He prefers to play shortstop, but here had the misfortune of backing up ironman Cal Ripken and had to settle for spot duty at third and second and occasional late-inning relief at short.
It was much the same in Toronto last season.
"But I was on a [East Division] championship team," he said. "That was my role and it wasn't my place to complain about it. You just adjust and accept it."
With an Angels team in transition, Gonzales has become a fixture and is thriving.
"I'm not going to say I'm any more skillful. I'm the same ballplayer," he said before last night's game. "I've always been confident in my ability. It's just a matter of being out there."
"This Week in Baseball" was at Oriole Park on Friday night to film a segment on Gonzales and Orioles left fielder Brady Anderson, roommates in California last off-season.
"I guess somebody correlated our starts [Anderson has been hot as well] to us being together," said Gonzales. "Everything we did involved some type of competition.
"We played a lot of football, baseball and worked with the weights. I'd like to think how we're playing is a reflection of what we did."
Milligan back in lineup
Randy Milligan suffered no ill effects after bruising his right shoulder while diving to tag out Luis Polonia on a play at first base Friday night and was back in the lineup last night.
"That I'm in there speaks for itself," said Milligan. "There's nothing else to say."
Poole heading for Hagerstown
Pitcher Jim Poole, who has not appeared in a game this year, will begin a rehabilitation assignment at Double-A Hagerstown starting tomorrow.
Sidelined since spring training by tendinitis in the left shoulder, Poole has been throwing for several weeks.
Manager Johnny Oates said the Orioles will "play it by ear" with Poole, who will stay with the Suns until he's ready.
Rodgers ready for surgery
Angels manager Buck Rodgers was admitted yesterday to Centinela Hospital Medical Center in Inglewood, Calif., where he will undergo surgery for injuries sustained in the crash of the team's bus on the New Jersey Turnpike.
Rodgers, who broke his right elbow and left knee, was released yesterday morning from Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia and flew back to California in a Lear jet. Rodgers, 53, also broke a rib in the accident. Lewis Yocum, the Angels' team doctor, will operate on Rodgers' elbow and knee today.
Public address announcer Rex Barney was in a local hospital with a foot infection and will miss the last two games of the Angels series. Frederick Keys general manager Keith Lupton was at the microphone last night. . . . Leo Gomez and Chris Hoiles were both out of the starting lineup last night rather than today because "they have better numbers against Chuck Finley than Mark Langston," said Oates. . . . Fifth starter Jose Mesa will get his next start Tuesday in Seattle. His workload will increase as the Orioles' off days decrease. After June 4, the team has only two more scheduled days off before the All-Star break.