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Bellhorn looks to leave his mark10/16/2004 12:01 AM ET
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
BOSTON -- Johnny Damon has long hair and a long beard and gives long interviews. During the course of his talkathons, Damon has been taking the blame for the Red Sox failures in the first two games against the Yankees.
Damon is always the gang leader of the Red Sox idiots, drawing large crowds of reporters in front of his dressing stall in Boston's cramped clubhouse.
His clubhouse neighbor, second baseman Mark Bellhorn, is rarely seen. He hangs out in the trainer's room or the players' lounge. He can't get close to his locker anyhow, not with Damon holding court.
If you want Bellhorn, you'll have better luck at the coffee machine. And there he was before Friday night's rainout, pouring a steaming cupful.
Damon is upfront and Bellhorn is laid-back. But Bellhorn, who is second banana in the Red Sox lineup, has one thing in common with Damon.
"I'm kind of like him. I feel like I really haven't done all that I could have for this team. I'm kind of in the same boat with Johnny. We're kind of like the table-setters on this team where we get on base, no matter how we do it, and it kind of gets this team going," Bellhorn said.
"So I'm as much to blame as he is because we haven't gotten on base for Manny [Ramirez] in two games."
Ramirez, who follows those guys in the order, has yet to drive in a run in this American League Championship Series. Hard to do when you come to bat looking at a lot of unoccupied stations.
While Damon is hitless in eight at-bats, Bellhorn is just 1-for-8. He pounded the double that ended Mike Mussina's perfect game with one out in the seventh inning in Tuesday night's Game 1.
"I was just trying to get something started, and both games we just started off real slow and you always know what's going on. Nobody talks about it that much, but he had the perfect game going and you always want to be the person who breaks it up. That's kind of what I was telling myself coming to the plate, that I was going to do it," Bellhorn said.
"He was pretty good the other night."
So good he had everyone researching Don Larsen's perfecto for the Yankees in the 1956 World Series.
When Bellhorn's drive hit the base of the left-field wall, record books snapped shut and the Larsen-related rhapsodies clanked all over press row at Yankee Stadium.
His double not only ended the no-hitter, it ignited a five-run inning that propelled the Red Sox back into the game. That's the type of torch the Red Sox need from the top of the lineup.
"I think we need to just somehow get something started early in the game before the third, fourth, fifth inning creeps around and we haven't got any momentum going," Bellhorn said.
A switch-hitter, Bellhorn batted .264 with a .373 on-base percentage in his first season with the Red Sox. He led the AL in strikeouts (177) but also was tied for third in walks (88) with the Yankees' Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada.
Bellhorn measures pitchers pretty carefully. This year he looked at an average of 4.15 pitchers per plate appearance, fourth in the AL and just ahead of Damon's 4.13.
"If I don't get a hit, I can still get a walk and that's what you want to do in that position and I think the strikeouts just come from that. If I was up there being more aggressive, I don't think I'd have that many walks or as good an on-base percentage either," Bellhorn said.
Batting behind Damon has its advantages, too.
"He's always a tough out, works the count and you kind of get the feel of what you have to work with," Bellhorn said. "And when he's on base, they're always thinking about him stealing a base or whatever, so it's harder for them to pitch to me or whoever is up behind me."
Manager Terry Francona was asked if perhaps he'd put Bill Mueller back in the second spot in an effort to jump-start the offense. But Francona will stick with Bellhorn.
"I'm not going to lose faith in him," Francona said. "He got it done for 162 games for us this year."
This marks Bellhorn's first playing time in the postseason.
"It's been awesome, everything I thought it would be. I was actually a reserve with Oakland a couple of years ago and I was pretty excited about it, but this is the first one I've actually played in," he said.
"It tires you out mentally pretty good."
Bellhorn has played with the Athletics, the Cubs and the Rockies, but no place quite like Boston's Fenway Park.
"I like to play here -- just the atmosphere every day. It's like October all year long," he said.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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