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Devo closer to plate, and maybe to solution


SEATTLE -- Assistant general manager Frank Robinson and hitting instructor Greg Biagini stood outside the batting cage and watched Mike Devereaux sting pitch after pitch over the left-field fence.

It wasn't even so much where the balls landed -- well into the seats beyond the fence -- as how quickly they got there that made Devereaux's early session stand out.

"Who was in there, Devereaux?" Seattle Mariners manager Lou Piniella said. "Man, he was crushing it."

That he was.

But, for now, when the opposing pitcher is a right-hander, Devereaux crushes the baseball during batting practice only. Since the All-Star break, Orioles manager Johnny Oates has been platooning Devereaux and Dwight Smith.

Oates isn't calling it a platoon ("I just come to the park every day, do some thinking and decide who is going to play"), but Devereaux knows that is what it amounts to.

He also knows he didn't leave Oates much choice. Devereaux was hitting .206 with 61 strikeouts in 252 at-bats going into last night's opener of a three-game series against the Mariners.

"I need to start hitting," said Devereaux, who has struck out once every 2.5 at-bats against right-handed pitchers. "The other guys are swinging the bats right now."

With the idea of joining them in mind, Devereaux decided to try a new stance suggested by Robinson and Biagini. That's when he started crushing ball after ball.

"I opened up my stance instead of closing it and I moved closer to the plate," Devereaux said. "It makes me stay in there longer and keeps me from pulling off the ball. I feel good about the way it went today."

Devereaux was beaned by Cleveland's Chad Ogea on May 8. He was back in the lineup the next day, but the effects lingered.

"After the beaning, I did pick up some bad habits I would definitely like to get rid of," Devereaux said.

Anderson better in center

Brady Anderson qualifies as one of baseball's most improved players.

In the first 390 games of his career, Anderson hit 10 home runs and drove in 88 runs.

In his next 390 games, he hit 45 home runs and drove in 184 runs.

On the topic of Anderson splits, he has been a better hitter this year when playing center field than left.

As a center fielder, Anderson is hitting .314 with seven home runs and 18 RBIs in 102 at-bats. As a left

fielder, he's batting .254 with four homers and 20 RBIs in 263 at-bats.

"You would think his offensive numbers shouldn't be any better, but they definitely are, especially his power numbers," Oates said. "You would think it would affect a guy like [Chris] Sabo when he goes to the outfield because he's been a third baseman his whole career. You wouldn't think it would make a difference to Brady."

Did Anderson get hot when he moved to center, or is it a coincidence? "I don't know," he said.

Considering Sabo played right field without any experience, it would seem to be no problem for Devereaux to move from center to right, as he did in spring training.

Oates, however, said he is not ready to make Anderson the permanent center fielder.

"When Devo's in the lineup he'll be in center," Oates said.


Mike Mussina on Albert Belle: "I never suspected he used a corked bat." . . . Shortly before gametime, Jeffrey Hammonds was scratched from the lineup to give his sore right knee TTC second day of rest. Jack Voigt played in his place. . . . Leo Gomez, reduced to part-time duty by a slump, is hitting .145 in his last 19 games. Overall, Gomez is batting .289 with 13 homers and 46 RBIs. His .547 slugging percentage ranked second to Rafael Palmeiro's .576.

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