Leonard is hit even without one Clutch sac flies fine with Orioles


Mark Leonard's statistical line is one those things that makes the game of baseball such a wonder.

Going into last night's game with Boston, Leonard had gone hitless, yet driven in three runs.

If you're confused, you're probably no more so than Leonard, who has hit three sacrifice flies, including Monday night's game-winner, since being recalled from Triple-A Rochester last Wednesday to replace the injured Harold Baines.

The problem is, Leonard still doesn't have a hit in 10 official at-bats, going 0-for-4 last night.

Leonard said: "The hits will come, but when you've got a chance to drive in the runs, especially like [Monday] night, it's a real satisfying feeling. You've got to get the ball out of the infield and out of the double play. Getting the run in either way is a good feeling. I've had guys on third each time I've hit sac flies. I'm not going to make much of it."

Leonard's fly to right in the eighth inning Monday with one out scored Brady Anderson with the go-ahead run in the Orioles' 2-1 win over the Red Sox.

Leonard, who had sacrifice flies in two games against Toronto last week, is doing what the Orioles expected him to do when they obtained him in a trade with the San Francisco Giants for infielder Steve Scarsone in March.

Manager Johnny Oates said: "We heard he was a good offensive player who hits with power and can come off the bench and hit. He has the ability to get around and get the ball in the air."

Leonard, 28, had a distinguished minor-league career in the San Francisco organization, batting over .300 at all minor-league levels and displaying good power as well, hitting 18 home runs for Phoenix, the Giants' Triple-A team, in 1990.

But he had the misfortune to be a Giant at the same time the team acquired Kevin Mitchell, Kevin Bass and subsequently Willie McGee.

Leonard said: "It was a situation that I understood. If you've got guys making $3 million a year, they're going to play and I knew that. They were trying to win games and they're trying to do what's best for the team. But it hurt me, getting all those guys."

Indeed, Leonard was reduced to being a pinch hitter and spot starter and "doing whatever you need to stay in the big leagues."

So, when the opportunity came to make a name for himself in a new organization, Leonard welcomed it with open arms.

"I hoped it would be a good opportunity. I knew they had a good team over here," Leonard said. "I've been in the pinch-hitting role for a couple years with the Giants. It's just nice to come to a new league with new players and with a team that's got a chance to win. I was happy with it."

The batting average, or lack thereof, could easily be explained by the adjustment period to seeing new pitchers, such as Roger Clemens, who struck out Leonard three times last night.

"Usually, from the fifth inning on in the National League, I was having to get loose and be ready to hit for the pitcher. Now, it's not that way anymore. That's the biggest difference for me. It's something I have to get used to, along with the pitchers," said Leonard.

Of course, coming to the American League with its designated hitter rule could open more doors for Leonard, provided he can continue to get the job done.

"I have to drive in runs, just like I've been doing," he said. "Getting a few hits here and there would be nice, too."

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