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SPRING TRAINING REPORT / BASEBALL : DODGERS

Off-Season Work Paying Off for Zeile

March 10, 1998|JASON REID

Little went right for Todd Zeile at the beginning of last season, so he changed his approach in the off-season.

He focused on baseball earlier than usual, hoping to improve his performance. So far, Zeile has had impressive results.

Zeile hit his second and third home runs in the Dodgers' 6-4, 10-inning loss to the New York Mets on Monday at Vero Beach, Fla.

"No big deal, just another wasted display of power," said Zeile, who is batting .355--11 for 31--with three homers and four runs batted in.

"What's important is that I got physically prepared for baseball, and my mind-set has been good early. I didn't want a repeat of last season."

In his first season with the Dodgers, Zeile struggled through a two-for-33 start. He said he felt added pressure because he'd grown up in the area and attended UCLA.

But Zeile rebounded, becoming the Dodgers' second-hottest hitter, behind only Mike Piazza, down the stretch.

He batted .424 during a nine-game hitting streak from Aug. 23-30, and hit four homers in his final 16 at-bats, joining Piazza, Eric Karros and Raul Mondesi as players with at least 30 homers. Overall, Zeile batted .268 with 31 homers and 90 RBIs.

"Playing at home, the expectations, the distractions . . . everything got to me," said Zeile.

"But by the end of the season, I didn't want it to end. But you can't count on being superhuman down the stretch, so I'm trying to avoid being backed in a corner again."

*

In a ceremony before the game, "Avenida Jaime Jarrin," a walkway at Dodgertown, was named for announcer Jaime Jarrin, who was recently elected to the Hall of Fame. "I am a very, very fortunate man," Jarrin said. "I had many people help me up the mountain." Jarrin, beginning his 40th season as the Dodgers' lead Spanish announcer, also threw out the first pitch. . . . Right-hander Chan Ho Park started and pitched five innings, giving up three runs--two earned--and six hits. He struck out three and walked none.

Reliever Darren Hall pitched two scoreless innings. In his last appearance, Hall gave up four runs in one inning. . . . Left-hander Dennis Reyes started and pitched four innings in the Dodgers' 8-5 split-squad victory over the Kansas City Royals at Baseball City. He gave up one run and two hits, and struck out four, walking two. Reyes is expected to open the season at triple-A Albuquerque.

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