Hammonds comes out swinging to keep outfield plans in place


CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Jeffrey Hammonds was given a clean bill of health during the winter, but the proof has been in the preseason.

Hammonds, who missed much of last season with a herniated disk in his neck, had two run-scoring triples yesterday, as the Orioles hammered the Philadelphia Phillies, 11-5, for their first victory of the exhibition season.

The 23-year-old outfielder, who was selected yesterday as Baseball America's preseason favorite as top rookie for 1994, is off to a terrific start at the plate.

He is the only Oriole to get a hit in each of the club's four exhibition games, and his 2-for-3 performance raised his exhibition average to .600.

"My focus has been on trying to get off to a good start," Hammonds said.

"I had questions about getting back to the level I was at last year, but I feel really comfortable right now."

Hammonds was on a roll when the potential seriousness of a neck injury became apparent last season. He batted .337 with 19 RBIs in his first month in the majors.

The club is looking at him as the Opening Day left fielder, but Hammonds is trying hard to be humble. He says he doesn't want to look like a guy taking his job for granted, but he does not appear to have anything to worry about.

"You have to keep in mind that there is a job that still needs to

be won," he said, "but it's nice to get off to a good start, because you don't have to press to try and make the club."

Fernandez on for Thursday

Left-hander Sid Fernandez threw off the mound at the Huggins-Stengel Complex yesterday and reported no pain in his sore left shoulder, so he will remain on schedule to pitch in Thursday's game against the New York Yankees at Fort Lauderdale.

O'Donoghue sharp

Left-hander John O'Donoghue followed Ben McDonald to the mound and kept the shutout alive for two more innings, giving up one hit in his second exhibition appearance. He has thrown four innings without giving up a run.

He was up with the major-league club briefly last year, but still looks like a long shot to make the team out of spring training.

"Of course, I'd like to make the team, and I am throwing well," he said.

"But it's a question about what the team needs.

"All I can do is pitch. I can't worry about anything else."

Kruk sidelined

Phillies first baseman John Kruk has been sent home for medical tests to determine the course of treatment for a lingering groin injury.

Kruk was hit in the groin area by a wild pickoff throw from reliever Mitch Williams last July. The ball was thrown so hard, it cracked Kruk's protective cup and caused a massive bruise to the area. Seven months later, he still is experiencing discomfort.

Minor surgery may be required, but doctors estimate that he'll be back in action in two weeks.

Devereaux still out

Right fielder Mike Devereaux missed his third straight exhibition game because of the injuries he received crashing into a chain-link fence at Grant Field in Dunedin. He is available to play, but swelling in his forehead has made it uncomfortable to wear a batting helmet.

Devereaux is scheduled to return to the lineup today.

Baines update

Designated hitter Harold Baines may make his 1994 exhibition debut tomorrow, but manager Johnny Oates said it was possible that Baines might be held back until the Orioles return from a three-day trip to Florida's East Coast.

"There's a possibility that he won't play until we come back," Oates said.

"I'm in no rush."

Baines is coming off knee surgery, so the club is in no hurry to get him back on the base paths.

He ran too much too soon last year and lost playing time because of it.

Mills on mound

Alan Mills, a fixture in the bullpen the past two years, will make his second start of the spring against the Blue Jays. He is scheduled to go three innings.

In his first appearance Friday, Mills gave up a three-run home run to Paul Molitor two pitches after Devereaux was injured chasing a foul fly.

Mussina contract update

Right-hander Mike Mussina remains unsigned, but agent Arn Tellum was expected in St. Petersburg last night to begin face-to-face negotiations.

Mussina has been tendered a contract worth $450,000 for the 1994 season, but figures to end up with about $650,000. He would like a multiyear deal, but general manager Roland Hemond declined to say whether that is being discussed.

The Orioles have until Friday before it would become necessary to renew Mussina's contract.

Gomez returns

Third baseman Leo Gomez, who returned to Puerto Rico last week to attend to urgent personal business, rejoined the club. He replaced Chris Sabo at third in the late innings yesterday and had a single in two at-bats.

Cook back today

Right-handed pitcher Mike Cook, who returned to Charleston, S.C., last week because his father, Charles, died of a heart attack, is scheduled to rejoin the team today.

He'll likely throw on the side for a couple of days and take a day off before making his first exhibition appearance, probably in Homestead, Fla., on Friday.

"Of course, that will depend on him," Oates said.

"I haven't had a chance to talk to him yet."

Carey bruised

Rookie first baseman Paul Carey was not in uniform yesterday. He suffered a bad bruise when he fouled a ball off his foot during Sunday's B game against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Extra guys

The Orioles added a couple of minor-league pitchers -- Vaughn Eshelman and Jimmy Haynes -- to the traveling squad yesterday to avoid overextending the major-league squad.

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