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Salmon, Snow Reverse Roles in Angel Victory

May 24, 1993|BOB NIGHTENGALE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ARLINGTON, Tex. — It's as if everyone forgot about Angel rookie right fielder Tim Salmon. He has been ignored by the media, slighted by the fans and playing in relative obscurity.

Everyone has been so busy exalting the heroics of fellow rookie J.T. Snow that Salmon was perceived to be little more than a part of Snow's supporting cast.

But after the Angels' 6-2 victory Sunday over the Texas Rangers, guess which rookie was being mobbed by the media, and which was sitting on Manager Buck Rodgers' couch for a counseling session.

In a strange twist of fate, Salmon is ascending into the limelight while Snow is struggling to find an identity.

Salmon, in what he called the most memorable game of his life, drove in a career-high four runs, going three for four with a home run in front of 20 friends and family at Arlington Stadium.

He helped make Julio Valera's season debut in the starting rotation a smashing success. Valera yielded only four hits and one earned run in six innings.

"This is a game I'll never forget," said Salmon, who lived with his mother at times in three Texas cities during his childhood. "I don't think anyone from my family has ever seen me hit a homer in person. It was just an awesome feeling."

Salmon quietly is having an impressive season. He is batting .271, with seven homers and 25 runs batted in.

He has been so consistent, Rodgers said, that the only time he has been brought into the manager's office was to discuss signs that he had missed from the batter's box.

The key to Salmon's success, Rodgers is convinced, was Snow's success at the outset of the season.

"Everyone focused so much attention on J.T.," Rodgers said, "that Salmon was in the major leagues for 25 games and nobody knew he was around.

"He wasn't being harassed like J.T., and no one was asking him, 'Are you going to hit 60 homers or are you going to hit .407 all year?' He got a freebie and now look at what he's done."

Salmon is batting .341 the last 11 games and suddenly has come out of Snow's shadow.

"I think the fact that so much attention was on J.T. did help me in a sense," Salmon said. "I mean, he was the guy driving the team bus. That allowed me to just go out and play and do my thing without anyone bothering me.

"It was one of those things where he was doing so well, I could just coast."

While Salmon has remained fairly consistent, Snow's season has turned upside down. He has struggled for nearly a month now, and Rodgers decided Sunday it was time for a heart-to-heart talk.

"I think it was a case where J.T. started to think too much," Rodgers said. "The thing that got to him was that everyone kept saying they'd pitch to him differently the second time around, and he started to believe it.

"I told him today, 'The pitchers aren't pitching you any differently. You're getting yourself out.' It's just a mental thing.

"It won't happen overnight, but I'm certain he'll come out of it."

Snow, who opened the season batting .407 with six homers and 17 RBIs, is batting only .131 since May 24. He singled and walked in four at-bats Sunday, and his season average has plummeted to .239.

"I told him, 'I'd be lying if this wasn't tough on me,' " Snow said. "It's just that I started off so hot, and now I've cooled off so much, I really didn't know how to handle it."

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