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For Henderson, Angels a Deflating Experience

September 20, 1997|MIKE DiGIOVANNA

It's impossible to carry a team to the playoffs from the bench, which is where Angel designated hitter Rickey Henderson and his .188 batting average were parked Friday night.

"He came here with huge expectations and all those credentials, but he's tried way too hard to live up to that," Manager Terry Collins said. "Every time he's traded in the middle of a pennant race he's expected to be the savior, and that's a lot of pressure."

Henderson has thrived in that spotlight, helping Oakland (1989) and Toronto (1993) to win World Series titles, but the game's stolen base leader has been unable to lift the Angels out of their September slump.

He has a decent on-base percentage (.350) and 16 stolen bases, but Henderson hasn't provided the offensive punch the Angels expected when they acquired him from San Diego on Aug. 13.

"I'm hitting like a girl," Henderson said, "but I'm trying not to get too frustrated. The biggest thing is I know I've given my best effort. I've taken extra batting practice, soft toss, I've done everything I need to do to get out of this . . . maybe it's just time to relax."


Injured first baseman Darin Erstad (sore shoulder) was so frustrated after Thursday's loss to Oakland he marched into Collins' office and insisted he play Friday.

"He said, "I need to be in there,' " Collins said. "That, to me, is why he is a real special player . . . but he has too bright a future to risk a serious injury, and if he blows out his shoulder and needs surgery, he might miss the whole 1998 season. I don't want to do that."

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