Stealing pennants is forte of Henderson Angels hope he acquires what he did as new A, Jay

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Most players with such a clear view of the end of their baseball careers want to settle in one final place as they ease into retirement. Sign that last contract and enjoy that last bit of stability.

Then there's Rickey Henderson, who can't seem to sit still long enough for the ink to dry.

He's the hired gun, the weapon who stopped being a secret long ago. Henderson, a 10-time All-Star, was brought to Anaheim on Wednesday for the same reason Oakland reacquired him in 1989 and Toronto snatched him four years later: to provide an extra push toward a world championship. Both of those teams attained their goal.

The Angels, unexpectedly engaged in a tight battle with Seattle for the AL West title, just want the chance. And they believe Henderson will give it to them.

"You cannot find enough guys who know how to win," said manager Terry Collins. "Rickey Henderson knows how to win."

When the possibility of seeing him in the playoffs is mentioned, Henderson said, "With my track record, I'd say we should be there."

No, he still doesn't lack for confidence.

If nothing else, baseball's all-time stolen base leader and one of its most prolific leadoff hitters should be a major disruption -- on the basepaths, not in the clubhouse.

"He'll blend in easy," Collins said. "We've got a lot of people who know him. He'll blend in fine."

He comes in knowing why the Angels traded for him once their previous leadoff hitter, Tony Phillips, was arrested last week and charged with cocaine possession. He can rattle off the reasons.

"Getting on base, getting in scoring position, playing good defense, motivation, giving them a jump-start," said Henderson, 38, acquired from the San Diego Padres for two minor-league pitchers and a player to be named.

Stepping into a pennant race is as natural to Henderson as stepping into the shower. "That's the ultimate when playing this game. That's what you work for, to get back into this time of the year."

Before last night's game at Camden Yards, Henderson had just one hit in seven at-bats since joining the Angels. But he had two hits and reached base four times, drawing a balk from Rick Krivda and scoring in Anaheim's four-run third.

Disruption, indeed.

"One of things I even saw in San Diego is, he may not be the 80-90 stolen base guy that he once was, but he knows how to steal them and when," Collins said of Henderson, who walked three times, stole a base and scored twice in a 5-3 victory Friday in Milwaukee. "He picks his situations and his times. And he's still a good offensive player. He knows how to work the count. And we really think that if he's on base, we'll drive him in."

Before the trade, Henderson was batting .274 with six home runs, 63 runs, 27 RBIs and 29 stolen bases. Phillips was batting .279 with 77 runs, seven homers, 47 RBIs and 12 steals.

"I think they both do the same thing at the plate; they both get on base," Collins said. "Their approach is different. Tony's a real vocal guy, Rickey's not. But we think we got better. We hope we get Tony back and our lineup will be that much better."

Orioles manager Davey Johnson said it looked good enough with Henderson. "He's one of the best leadoff hitters in the game, period. Even in an off-year, he gets on base 40 percent of the time. Anytime you can add on-base guys, you're better," he said.

Maybe the end isn't so close for Henderson. That ride into the sunset just might require a few more connecting flights.

"I take it a year at a time," he said. "I still enjoy it. I don't see any time limit, or anything that's slowing me down."

Pub Date: 8/17/97

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