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'Veteran' Suns ready to improve

June 18, 1998|By BOB PARASILITI

Marty Pevey is superstitious.

He admits it. He's proud of it. And he relies on it.

The Hagerstown Suns manager likes to have everything on the same, routine path every day. Starting tonight, he hopes his team will take that same approach when it opens the South Atlantic League's second half in Hickory, N.C., against the Crawdads.

"This is going to be same old, same old," Pevey said. "We just hope to keep rolling and we hope that we'll be able to do it because we have more experience. We are veterans now."

The Suns came of age on Sunday, completing a near-impossible comeback against Cape Fear on the last day and win the South Atlantic League's first-half title. Hagerstown came from 10 1/2 games back in the last three weeks using precise pitching and hot hitting to wrestle the title away from the Crocs.

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Pevey, the manager, was ecstatic with what the Suns accomplished. And they did it to the letter of Toronto's development plans - learning to play the game while learning how to win.

And even in their success, there is still much more for the Suns to learn. Pevey has the checklist to prove it.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* " NATURALSIZEFLAG="0" ALIGN="BOTTOM"> "We have to do a better job scoring runners from third with two outs ... period," Pevey said.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* " NATURALSIZEFLAG="0" ALIGN="BOTTOM"> "We have to get better at moving runners over from second with no outs."

Early in the season, the Suns fell well behind the pace set by the Crocs, mainly because of an 0-for-24 stretch of hitting with runners in scoring position. Needless to say, it led to a late April swoon of eight losses in 10 games.

n "Our bullpen has to do a better job of coming in and putting hitters away."

Suns starters finished the first half with a combined 27-15, losing many decisions because the bullpen would relinquish the lead before the Suns nailed down the win.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* " NATURALSIZEFLAG="0" ALIGN="BOTTOM"> "Our defense has to stop making the chintzy errors on the routine plays. Everyone makes the big plays, but to make it to the big leagues, you have to make all the routine plays."

The Suns committed 101 errors in the first half. Many came in bunches and led to 25.2 percent of the runs Hagerstown pitching allowed to be unearned.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* " NATURALSIZEFLAG="0" ALIGN="BOTTOM"> "I really expect Greg Morrison, Vernon Wells and Mike Young to break out in the second half. They are all young and have started swinging the bat really well."

Morrison and Wells are coming back after rough starts to the season after outstanding seasons last year on the Single-A rookie level. Young, who has played every game for the Suns, has hit the ball hard all season, but has seen his average drop because of hard luck.

Pevey has nurtured the Suns by allowing them to play the game and make mistakes, while still controlling the team. For example, many of the Suns have a green light to steal bases, yet the success rate isn't where Pevey would like.

Yet, the manager allows his players to learn through their mistakes and revel in their victories.

"It's like putting mice in a maze," Pevey said. "They keep trying and keep trying. If they know that there is food at the end, they'll learn."

For the now-veteran Hagerstown Suns, the morsel waiting at the maze's end is the South Atlantic League title.

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