SPRING TRAINING PREVIEW

Sexson looks to cut down on strikeouts with 'Backs


Published: Monday, March 1, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, February 29, 2004 at 11:31 p.m.

Richie Sexson arrived at his first Arizona Diamondbacks spring training with blond-tipped hair. No fashion statement, just a lost bet with his brother.

"I thought the Colts would make it to the Super Bowl, so we put our hair on the line," he said. "And Peyton (Manning) had a bad day."

The many bad days with the Milwaukee Brewers are behind Sexson, who came to Arizona in an offseason trade designed to give the Diamondbacks a much-needed jolt of power.

"It's an exciting feeling, no doubt _ the opportunity to win again," Sexson said Friday after the Diamondbacks position players went through their first spring workout. "Every player obviously dreams of getting that ring. When you come to an organization like this, that's the main goal."

For 3 1/2 seasons, after being traded from Cleveland, Sexson hit homers and honed his first base skills with the lowly Brewers. In that span, he had 119 home runs 398 RBIs. He was the first right-handed Milwaukee batter to have three consecutive 100-RBI seasons.

With the power came strikeouts _ 151 of them last season _ fourth-most in the National League. He did, however, manage a career-best 98 walks.

"That's always been a goal of mine, to get those walks near the strikeouts," Sexson said. "It's an ongoing process. Hopefully, they say you get better as you get older, and you tend to try to learn more.

"I'm with a veteran team for the first time in four years, and I'm going to milk Gonzo (Luis Gonzalez) and Fins (Steve Finley) for everything they've got. They're accomplished hitters. That's all that I can do is continue to try to get better in the areas that I need to."

Strikeouts are not a big concern of manager Bob Brenly.

"We'd like to see fewer strikeouts because hopefully that would translate into more hits, more RBIs," Brenly said. "But we don't want to take away from why we brought him here. He's a power hitter, and power hitters do strike out."

Brenly said coaches might try to tinker with Sexson's approach at the plate when he has two strikes.

"But that's not something we came into spring training with a big priority," Brenly said. "If the guy hits 50 bombs and strikes out 150 times, we'll live with that."

Sexson will hit behind Roberto Alomar and Gonzalez in what Brenly says will be a stable Arizona lineup.

"Hopefully we'll be able to turn our offense around. We couldn't do any worse than last year," Gonzalez said. "As big as Richie is, he can miss-hit balls and hit them out."

Sexson, 29, knows it will be tough for the financially strapped Diamondbacks to re-sign him when his contract expires after this season, although managing general partner Jerry Colangelo insists the team will be able to afford him.

"It's something I'm not going to worry about all year," Sexson said. "I think those things just play themselves out. You just have to go out and play the game. Depending on how the way the team is going, those things just work themselves out."

Wherever he winds up, he believes he has yet to reach his potential.

"Nothing came easy for me, you know," Sexson said. "A late-round draft pick, I had to battle my whole career to get where I'm at, so I'm going to keep right on working."

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