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Hitter keeps swings coming

Bevo Paul McAnulty explains theory behind his big bangs at bat
by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT, Bevo Paul McAnulty signals an out against Las Vegas at first base Tuesday, but where he really excels is swinging at home.

Hit man Paul McAnulty of the Portland Beavers admits to not knowing what to do at the plate - in one situation, anyway.

Most of his 29 at-bats with the parent San Diego Padres have been in a pinch-hitting role. Like many guys, McAnulty struggled when given one at-bat in a game.

'It's really tough to pinch-hit,' says McAnulty, a 25-year-old first baseman and outfielder from Oxnard, Calif. 'You can't just be thrown into that role. It comes with experience at that (big-league) level.

'Guys are throwing 94 to 95 miles per hour with a sinking fastball and painting the black (of the plate). And you haven't seen the pitcher all night. I tip my hat to every pinch-hitter who has made it in this game.'

Batter buys the cages

Give him four 'ABs,' and McAnulty knows what to do. McAnulty's Triple-A average with the Bevos has been hovering well over .300 of late, and through Wednesday he had 11 home runs and 49 RBIs. In 38 games here last season, the left-handed batter hit .344.

Sporting a compact swing and a propensity to spray the ball that would be the envy of others, McAnulty doesn't have too many off nights. He has had 17 two-hit games, five three-hit games, a four-hit game and Portland's only five-hit game, June 14 against Tucson.

'He's not a pull, pull, pull hitter,' manager Craig Colbert says. 'He's got a compact swing, and he can cover the inner and outer half of the plate.'

McAnulty learned how to hit from his father, and he says his swing has not changed since age 5, save for some tweaks. How seriously does he take hitting? He owns Who's on First? batting cages, a 10,000-square-foot facility in his hometown of Oxnard that he bought in November 2002 after winning the Pioneer League batting title.

He hits in the cages four or five times a week in the off-season.

His philosophy at the plate: 'See it, watch the ball hit the bat and hit it hard.' Sounds simple.

'You can very easily go into a slump; it's a matter of how fast you recognize it and go back to what you were doing,' he says. 'Hitting, it's mostly mental. I've been swinging for 20-something years. You know to swing.'

A hulking 5-10, 220 pounds, McAnulty takes some mighty - yet, controlled - cuts at the ball. He can hit the ball far but professes to be 'a gap hitter with home-run potential.'

McAnulty will take his walks, but he wants to hit the ball. He still sports an on-base percentage above .400. 'I want to find some way to get on base twice a game,' he says. 'If I think I can hit it, I swing. I'm a controlled free swinger. Very rarely do I chase pitches, because I don't guess too much. I see that thing coming out of the pitcher's hand, and I want to hit it so badly.

'A lot of guys like to sit on pitches. I could care less if it's a fastball, curveball or slider. I'll hit it. I can hit a curveball as far as I can hit a fastball. See it and hit it.'

Third-base lessons learned

A bigger issue for McAnulty, as he tries to climb into the big leagues, will be where he can play and play well. Despite being bulky, he runs pretty well - 'better than you think,' Colbert says - and he can play left field and right field.

'His best position might be the outfield,' Colbert says.

McAnulty has started 43 games at first base and 16 at third base in San Diego's grand experiment to see whether he can play at the hot corner.

'It's going really good. I'm making routine plays,' McAnulty says. 'I'm learning how to get my reaction time down. Footwork is very important in getting the throw down. A lot of guys have played at third their entire lives - and I'm trying to learn it in a couple months.'