04 SUNDAY. MAY 11. 1997 MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL THE SALINA JOURNAL Batting star Gwyn Seven-time NL batting champ has provided the Padres with an unexpected power surge By BERNIE WILSON Tile AssociiiMl /'rcss S AN DIEGO — Hey, Tony Gwynn, how 'bout all those home runs? It's a question the batting star has heard a lot lately, at the bank, at lunch, at the ballpark. Gwynn, who's turned slapping opposite-field base hits into an art form, is on a power surge. Going into the weekend he had seven home runs in the last month, tied with struggling slugger Greg Vaughn for the team lead and halfway to matching his career-high for a season. "I'm like anybody else. I'm shocked," said Gwynn. whose sweet left-handed stroke has won him seven NL batting crowns since 1984. "I just can't believe how people are acting. Wherever I go, it's like 'Hey, where's the power coming from?' ... I can understand people being curious, but I can honestly sit here and say I'm not doing anything different," he said. "I'm not trying to go out of the yard." Gwynn's homer binge is one of the few bright spots offensively for the slumping Padres. Even so, he goes so far as to say it's a fluke. He hasn't changed his swing and he's not using a bigger bat, just the same 33-inch, 30 \'t -ounce model he's swung for years. But there is one huge difference from last year — he's playing on healthy "I just can't believe how people are acting. Wlierever I go, it's like 'Hey, where's the power coming from?' " Tony Gwynn on hitting seven home runs in the last month legs. Although Gwynn won a third straight batting crown with a .353 average, 1996 was a miserable season because of two injuries in his right heel that required off- season surgery. He couldn't plant his front foot, went through dozens of pairs of cleats and cross-trainers to find a comfortable fit, and spent a month on the disabled list. But now he's got his legs under him, and he's still on his first pair of shoes, the ones with "5.5 Hole" embroidered on them. That's his favorite spot, between third and shortstop. But if a pitcher hangs a breaking ball, Gwynn is probably going to drive it out of the park. "In order to pull a ball with authority, you've got to have a nice base to work with," he said. "That's where health comes into play." Gwynn has pulled six of his homers, and five have been on breaking balls or changeups. He was shocked when he hit an opposite-field shot off Houston's Shane Reynolds on April 22. "See, I'm the type of guy, I can remember them all, because I usually don't hit many," said Gwynn, who had just three homers last year. "So you can sit back and say, 'Yeah, the one I hit in April was like this, and the one I hit in May was like this.'" Gwynn's career-best was 14 in 1986. He was on pace to break it in 1994, but he finished with 12 when the players' strike halted the season in mid-August. Gwynn has hit his homers this season in 73 at-bats. Before the outburst, he hadn't homered in 277 at-bats dating to June 13 at Chicago. The last thing Gwynn wants to do is hit 20 homers, because he figures fans will expect him to do it again next year. "I'm telling you now, it's a fluke. It's just one of those things, and nobody wants to believe it," he said. Not necessarily, manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's got more power than people think. He uses his legs so well," he said. Gwynn admits that some of his homers have been on ugly swings. They just happened to coincide with a pitcher's mistake, and Gwynn's more likely to cash in on a pitcher's mistake than vice versa. "He gets away with a lot of things," batting coach Merv Rettenmund said. "He sees the ball so well." Gwynn would rather just hit the ball into left field, because then he knows he's doing well. If he pulls a homer and pitchers start throwing outside, they're playing to his strength. That's why he's hit above .300 for 14 straight seasons, has a career average of .337 and needs 392 hits to join the 3,000-hit club. After Friday night's game, Gwynn's batting average this season was .369 — The Associated Press Though not regarded as a power hitter, San Diego Padres outfielder Tony Gwynn shares the team lead in home runs this season with seven. .500 with runners in scoring position — and he had a team-high 25 RBIs, 10th in the NL. "I don't care about hitting any home runs," he said. "It's just one more hit. Sure you can change the game with one swing of the bat, but I'm not that kind of player. I take more pride in banging the ball around, taking what they give me and doing something with it." Pitching sparks Pirates Young arms factor into budget-stripped Pittsburgh's start By ANGEL HERNANDEZ Scripps Howard News Service A touch of home always awaits Ricardo Rincon in the Pittsburgh Pirates' clubhouse. It's a long way from western Pennsylvania to eastern Mexico. But it doesn't seem that way to Rincon. Not when teammate Esteban Loaiza can needle Francisco Cordova about his pew haircut. Or when Loaiza can express mock outrage at Rincon for ignoring him after strolling in late from a Miami flight. "I thought you were too wrapped up in what you were doing," Rincon protested to Loaiza. The rest of their Pittsburgh Pirates are just happy to see the trio carve out a little piece of Mexico at Three Rivers Stadium, where it has formed the pitching cornerstone of one of the National League's surprise ballclubs. Few figured the budget- stripped Pirates could compete this year. Some even wondered if Pittsburgh's deep collection of youngsters could even do well in Class AAA after trades stripped the club of established stars such as first baseman Jeff King, shortstop Jay Bell, second baseman Carlos Garcia and outfielder Orlando Merced. The Pirates instead took an 19-15 mark into Saturday's night's game with Atlanta despite scoring the fewest runs of any team in the NL. Rincon, Loaiza and Cordova have been the keys to the surprising turnaround. After struggling through 5 % innings of a 10-8 win over the Rockies Thursday, the Mexican-born Loaiza now has a 4-0 record with a 2.44 earned-run average. He also became the first Pittsburgh pitcher to win his first four decisions since Randy Tomlin in 1992 . The Pirates bought Cordova, 25, from the Mexico City Reds last season, and the slight right- hander promptly led the major leagues in saves (12) for a rookie pitcher. He also had a 4-7 record and 4 09 ERA. Cordova has done better this season, posting a 1.89 ERA. in six starts, although poor support has left him with a 1-3 record. Next in line is Rincon, 27, who arrived this spring as non-roster pitcher and subsequently won a job in the bullpen. Rincon has used his superior slider to fashion a 1.93 ERA. with two saves and a 2-2 record. Appier, Rosado, Belcher provide Royals lift Three starting pitchers have combined for 11-5 record, 2.19 ERA By TRACY RINGOLSBY Scripps Howard News Service Kansas City is in the midst of the battle for first thanks to a rotation that is clicking on three of its five cylinders. Kevin Appier, Jose Rosado and Tim Belcher are more than carry- ALCEfflJtl |ng the load. The threesome is a combined 11-5 with a 2.19 ERA, and has churned out 18 quality starts in 22 appearances. They are averaging 7 % innings a start. The rest of the Royals staff, however, is 6-11. Minnesota Twins Minnesota began a stretch of playing 16 of 18 games at home on Friday, hoping to shake the problems that had seen them lose 12 of their previous 15 games, but it may be wishful thinking. The Twins were 0-6 their last homes- tand, getting swept by Texas and Baltimore. The most amazing The Associated Press Kevin Appier has been one of the Royals' top pitchers this season despite losing Saturday to the New York Yankees. thing is that despite all their problems the Twins went into the weekend with a 14-20 record but only four games out of first place. "We've got to feel fortunate," said DH Paul Molitor, in a 4-for-23 struggle since coming off the disabled list. Chicago White Sox Terry Bevington stays. That was the word Saturday from Chicago White Sox general manager Ron Schueler, who said his manager's job has not been in jeopardy despite the team's slow start. "Absolutely not," Schueler said. "I'm very satisfied with Terry Bevington, I have confidence we can win under him and that we are headed in the right direction. ... He's my manager. I will not replace Terry Bevington. I don't think there's a need to." The White Sox, with a $54 million payroll, took a 12-19 record into Saturday's game with Oakland. Schueler said before the beginning of an 11-game homestand that he expected the team to start winning or there could be changes. That prompted speculation that those might start with the manager. Cleveland Indians Batters beware. Cleveland's starting rotation is starting to get its act together. In 12 games prior to the weekend Cleveland starters were 6-2 with a 3.59 ERA. After two appearances in the bullpen, Jack McDowell returned to the rotation to allow two earned runs in 15 innings of two starts. Milwaukee Brewers Milwaukee manager Phil Garner has decided to try Jeromy Burnitz, who leads the team with eight stolen bases, in the leadoff spot. Trying to find a replacement foi 4 'injured Fernando Vina he first Went to Chuckle Carr (.132 average) and then to Mark Loretta (.200 average). Burnitz, who had been pla- tooning in right field, is just happy to get an everyday opportunity: Around the division No wonder Seattle's Randy Johnson was upset he got rained out in Chicago, and had to go'for his AL- record-tying 16th consecutive victory in Baltimore Thursday. Johnson lost, and is now 3-6 lifetime against the Orioles. He is 10-2 against Chicago — 6-0 at Comiskey Park. . . Jason Bere is showing so much improvement in his recovery from right elbow surgery the White Sox are starting to think he will be back by the.All- Star break •-'••- The Associated Press contributed to this story. A.P.Y.' Were celebrating our customers with a fantastic Ct> offer. 24-Month Ct> Deposits of $10,000 or wore. To take advantage of our special offer, visit the First Bank Kansas location nearest you. Salina/Assaria/Kaiiopolis/Ellsworth Member FDIC The 6.50%* Annual Percentage Yield (A.HY.) is accurate as of May 4, 1997, and is based on quarterly compounding. A minimum deposit and balance of $10,000 is required to earn the slated A.P.Y. A substantial interest penalty may be charged for early withdrawal. Offer may be withdrawn without notice. FREE LANDFILL DAY Sunday, May 18 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The City of Salina Landfill will be open free of charge for residential waste on Sunday, May 18, from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm to the residents of Saline; Ellsworth, Lincoln and Ottawa Counties. Only vehi-! cles bearing the above county license tags will be permitted to use the landfill free of charge. No commercial business waste or trucks will be allowed. No more than two appliances and/or four car tires will be allowed, No equipment tires will be accepted. In the event of heavy rain, the Landfill will be closed and the free Landfill day will be June 1. If it is raining and you are not sure if the Landfill is open, you may call at 826-7395 to find out. The Salina Landfill is located on Burma Road, southwest of the City Limits, 4 3/4 miles south of Crawford Street. For additional information, please call the Salina Landfill at 826-7395. SPECIAL REFUSE PICKUPS City of Salina sanitation service customers may call for a special pickup for large items such as furniture, or limbs. A crew will perform 15 minutes of alley or curbside loading for only $12.00. This service is available year-round. For details, please call the Sanitation Division at 826-7380.
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