Originally created 05/26/98

Gutierrez sparks Jackets



The top of the GreenJackets batting order received a double-shot on Monday.

Victor Gutierrez is hitting and stealing bases again and Kory DeHaan will be back doing the same in a few days.

Batting leadoff Monday night, Gutierrez went 3-for-5 with two stolen bases and sparked the Jackets to a 5-4 victory over the Macon Braves at Lake Olmstead Stadium.

DeHaan, the Jackets' center fielder and best all-around player, learned his left hand was not broken, as was originally feared. DeHaan was hit by a pitch in Tuesday's loss to Savannah and x-rays taken the following day were inconclusive due to swelling.

Monday's x-rays were negative and DeHaan could return to the lineup later this week. The 21-year-old, who is batting .291 with two homers and 31 RBI with just two errors in 45 games, is eligible to come off the disabled list Wednesday.

"That's great news," Jackets manager Marty Brown said of DeHaan. "He's done so much for this ballclub and I hated the idea of Kory not being in the lineup."

The Jackets hated the idea of a struggling Gutierrez atop the lineup the past few weeks. The 20-year-old shortstop, who batted .360 with 44 steals in the Dominican Summer League in 1996, was off to a hot start with the Jackets. He was batting .290 in late April and led all of minor league baseball with 19 stolen bases through the end of the month, but had been in an offensive funk the past three weeks.

Before the nine-game homestand, Gutierrez was batting .185 with just one stolen base in his last 15 games. Gutierrez finished the homestand with 10 hits in 26 at-bats (.385) and three steals, lifting his season average to .263 and regaining a tie with Terrance Freeman for the club lead, with 23.

Freeman and Gutierrez are one steal behind South Atlantic League leader Alex Escobar, who has 24 for Columbus.

"I think what you're seeing the past few days from Victor is him being more selective at the plate," Jackets hitting coach Jeff Treadway said. "He's a good hitter who really doesn't have any holes in his swing. He just needs to learn to be a more patient and selective hitter and he's been doing a better job of that lately."

"I feel more confident at the plate," Gutierrez said through interpreter and teammate Alex Pena. "I am swinging at better pitches now."

But Gutierrez' defense nearly offset his offense. In the top of the eighth with Chris Combs in relief of starter Giancarlo Alvarado, a Gutierrez botch on a pop-up to short left-center opened the door for Macon to tie it 4-4.

"He's a very good defensive player," Treadway said. "He'll make some mistakes, he's young, but he's going to be a good one."

The Jackets (30-22) scored the go-ahead run in the bottom of the eighth on a sacrifice fly by Xavier Burns off losing pitcher Ryan Greene (2-1). It made a winner out of Combs (2-1), who allowed one unearned run and two hits in two innings.

The Southern Division-leading Jackets went 5-4 on the homestand, winning the last two games with Macon to gather steam as they begin the grueling first-half stretch drive, with 13 of their final 19 games on the road.

NOTES:

The Jackets begin a four-game roadtrip and series in Greensboro tonight and return home on Saturday for a two-game series with Piedmont. They then begin a nine-game 10-day road trip on Monday in Kannapolis, N.C., vs. Piedmont, then head to Salisbury, Md., for a four-game series vs. Delmarva and close out the trip with a three-game series vs. Savannah. They close out the first half of the season with a four-game series vs. Hickory, beginning June 11. The SAL All-Star Game is June 17 in Charleston, S.C. ... Evans baseball coach Chris Segraves and assistant coach Russell Lee attended the game with the Knights' senior players. Segraves, whose Knights lost in the second round of the Class AAAA state layoffs, was selected to participate in the dizzy bat race promotion. He lost.