The first evidence that Mike Devereaux was getting comfortable at the plate again came in the first game after the All-Star break.
"I knew he was on the right track when he drove the ball deep the opposite way," Oriole hitting coach Greg Biagini said. "Last year he did that a lot and had outstanding numbers. Now he's doing it again."
The progress came full flower Friday night when Devereaux nearly became the third Oriole to hit for the cycle in a 9-7 victory over Minnesota.
Then, last night, Devereaux homered just inside the right-field foul pole on the heels of a similar drive by Brady Anderson in the fifth inning that gave the Orioles their only runs in a 4-2 loss.
The drive extended his hitting streak to seven games during which he has batted .387.
Devereaux was a triple shy of joining Brooks Robinson (vs. Chicago in 1960) and Cal Ripken (vs. Texas in 1984) after Biagini noticed an elementary flaw in his swing.
It was simply a matter of holding on that made the difference.
"Greg Biagini noticed that I was letting my top hand off the bat too soon," Devereaux said. "So now I am leaving it on a little longer.
"I am starting to get into a groove now, feeling a lot better than I have before. I'm hitting well in batting practice and in the cage."
Biagini said hitting two-handed gives Devereaux better snap and better bat speed.
"Mike is not the type of hitter who can swing the bat with one hand," Biagini said.
The change is helping the most valuable Oriole of 1992 overcome a sluggish start that Devereaux is at a loss to explain.
"Why such a sluggish start?," he asked. "If I could answer that, I'd bottle it. It happens. It's life. You have to make adjustments and keep trying until you get it right."
The ripening of Devereaux as an offensive force was a prime reason the Orioles blossomed into contenders last year.
He led the team in 10 categories, including batting average, home runs and RBI while hitting second in the lineup most of the season. Many observers felt he would have to approach that performance for the club to challenge again.
It hasn't happened. The early batting woes intervened. A shoulder injury suffered as he made a diving attempt to make a catch May 2 cost him 24 days on the disabled list.
But he isn't concerned about not joining the exclusive club of two on the Oriole cycle team.
"If you don't get one of the four [hits], that's something that lets you know you've still had a good day," Devereaux said.
"You're not out there thinking, 'I need a triple, or I need a home run.' And if you need a triple and are on your way to an inside-the-park homer, you're not going to stop at third."
Devereaux has come close before. Last year at California he had two singles, a double and a triple in five at-bats.
"I had a chance in 1989, needing a homer in my last at-bat, but I popped out," he said.
The important thing is that he's using two hands again. The four-hit game was his first since Sept. 1 at Oakland.
"He was hitting pretty well before the injury, but when he first came back, he was holding onto the bat stiff. I think he was
favoring the injury," Biagini said.