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Palmeiro presses to fill void By trying to do more, first baseman is hitting less

MILWAUKEE -- For most teams, a 7-6 stretch would be cause for little alarm. For the Orioles, who required 28 days to lose their previous six, it has become a signal to look for outside help.

Manager Davey Johnson has said repeatedly that first baseman Rafael Palmeiro requires greater protection. He has never cited cleanup hitter Cal Ripken, but some within the clubhouse have made the connection. Especially with the club taking a slump of a .232 average with only 21 extra-base hits since June 11 into last night's game.

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Palmeiro's struggles have coincided with the team's. In his past nine games, Palmeiro is 4-for-36 (.111) with two RBIs and no extra-base hits. He admits he has tried to assume greater responsibility but instead has tumbled into a slide.

"I'm seeing a lot more off-speed pitches and less pitches to hit," he said before going 0-for-3 last night. "But I should be more disciplined. I should be disciplined enough to wait for the pitch and not get myself out."

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Hitting coach Rick Down confirms Palmeiro's struggle to taking on more responsibility for a lower lineup that's not working.

"He wants to do so much," Down said. "When you start struggling as a team you want guys to go out and expand the strike zone because they're a little bit better out of their zone than somebody else who gets a pitch."

Monday's outing by fresh-faced Brewers right-hander Jeff D'Amico was particularly disturbing. Only 21 years, 179 days old, D'Amico treated a once-imposing lineup with little respect. He pounded 20 first-pitch strikes against 30 hitters and became the youngest pitcher since Steve Avery in 1991 to pitch a shutout.

Without Chris Hoiles and Eric Davis, the makeshift Orioles are employing three hitters with averages below .240 at the bottom of the order. It is no coincidence that B. J. Surhoff, usually the No. 6 hitter, ranks second league-wide in intentional walks to Ken Griffey.

In addition to Hoiles and Davis, Roberto Alomar has sworn off hitting right-handed against left-handers because of a lingering shoulder strain.

"We're obviously susceptible to left-handers, especially with Robbie not able to hit right-handed," Down said. "But guys are just going to have to step up."

Pub Date: 6/25/97


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