Originally created 04/28/00

Ex-Braves prospect swinging game's hottest bat



KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- With a major league-leading 11 home runs, Jermaine Dye has generated lots of cheers. But he's so focused that he has tuned them all out.

"You don't feel anything, you don't hear anything -- not the crowd, not anything," Dye said. "You're on every pitch. Guys are making great pitches and you're laying off them.

"I can't explain it."

A lanky and limber 6-foot-5, Kansas City's right fielder and former Braves top prospect finds himself in that rare, happy and somewhat unconscious state called "the zone."

He's also in the record book. After slugging a grand slam and a solo home run against Tampa Bay Wednesday night, Dye became the first player in big league history to hit 10 homers and 10 doubles before May 1.

The Elias Sports Bureau confirmed that Dye, in more than a century of baseball, is the only man to do it.

"He's on fire," said Royals relief pitcher Ricky Bottalico. "We're sitting in the bullpen saying, `What do you throw him?"'

Those critics who blasted general manager Herk Robinson for sending Michael Tucker and Keith Lockhart to the Atlanta Braves for Dye in 1997 are hard to find these days.

In his first two years, the critics had their day. He was plagued by injuries and never could get started.

Then came a breakthrough season in 1999 with 27 home runs and 119 RBI -- plus a league-leading 17 outfield assists.

Now he's becoming even a bigger star.

"He's spitting on the bad pitches and when he sees something, he's not making a mistake," Bottalico said. "He's hitting doubles or into the seats. You can't stop him right now."

Dye has homered in six of his past seven games and leads the majors with 11 home runs, 76 total bases, 21 extra-base hits and an .884 slugging percentage. His 10 doubles lead the AL while his .384 average is fifth and his 25 RBI are third.

"I'm hitting it pretty good right now, seeing it really good, trying to stay with my same approach day in and day out," he said.

"I'm making good swings on the ball and the ball's taking off for me. It seems like everything's going well for me right now."

In his last 11 at-bats, Dye has hit four home runs, three doubles and a single. When grounding into a double play Wednesday night, he still looked good.

"That double-play ball was smoked," manager Tony Muser said. "Every ball he swung at, he squared up. The last three games, he's been as good as you can be."

Dye has been in similar grooves before -- but always in the minor leagues.

"I'm just focused on the pitcher and trying to beat the pitcher," he said.