BASEBALL / GARY KLEIN : Zaun Unafraid to Experiment in an Effort to Halt Slump

Gregg Zaun has changed the position of his feet, hands, hips and shoulders so often this season, he isn't quite sure what stance he first used.

"I've gone through about 15 or 16 hitting stances and swings trying to get myself going," said Zaun, a catcher who was drafted in 1990 out of St. Francis High. "I'm trying just about anything I can think of to get back to where I was my first two seasons."

Zaun is batting .202 with two home runs and 23 runs batted in for Frederick, Md., the Baltimore Orioles' affiliate in the Class-A Carolina League.

Zaun batted .310 during his rookie season for Bluefield, W. Va., in the Appalachian League and .274 last season for Kane County, Ill., in the Class-A Midwest League. He was selected as an all-star both years.

"The defensive part of my game is still better than anyone else in this league," Zaun said. "But I have an agenda in my mind as far as where I want to be after three or four years of pro ball.

"I need to start hitting to be where I want to be."

Zaun has not lacked for moral support during his first-half struggles. His fiancee, Krista Chamberlain, works as a secretary in the Frederick front office. Chamberlain, who grew up in Glendale and graduated from Glendale High, has been dating Zaun for 3 1/2 years. The couple will be married in October.

"We've been together a long time, so I kind of knew what to expect in terms of lifestyle when I came down here in May," Chamberlain said. "Working in the office has been great.

"The hardest part is when there are player moves. I have to keep my mouth shut and not tell anyone."

Zaun said he is happy Chamberlain is nearby.

"She does a great job in the office and has been a big help to me," Zaun said. "It's also easier financially having her here. Spending $200 a month in phone bills is a killer."

Beginning to click: Former Buena High standout Matt Anderson has been batterymates with Zaun for two seasons.

Anderson, a left-hander, is 7-6 with a 4.17 earned-run average for Frederick. He has struck out 88 and walked 35 in 101 1/3 innings.

Last season for Kane County, Anderson was 13-8 with a 3.03 ERA in 169 innings. He led the entire Baltimore minor league system in wins, complete games (five) and strikeouts (166).

"Matt's been making some mechanical adjustments this season," Zaun said. "It doesn't always click right away when you try some new things, but he's battled.

"He's capable of being one of the best pitchers in this league."

Moving up: Darren Daulton might be having a career year for the Philadelphia Phillies, but there seems to be no doubt that Mike Lieberthal will be stationed behind the plate at Veterans Stadium within the next few years--if not sooner.

At 20, Lieberthal is one of the youngest players in the double-A Eastern League.

But the former Westlake High standout is batting .317 with two home runs, 32 RBIs and 14 doubles for Reading, Pa.

Lieberthal (6-foot, 175 pounds) has 26 multiple-hit games and has had hitting streaks of eight and 10 games. He also has thrown out 26 of 63 runners, including 10 of the last 16.

Monday, he will start in the Eastern League all-star game.

Statistically speaking: Try as he might, Chris Vasquez could not keep his eyes off the statistics sheet earlier this season.

Vasquez, a 20-year outfielder who played at Hart High and College of the Canyons, was hoping for a fast start that would earn him a midseason promotion to double-A.

"I was really focused on my stats and it really messed me up," said Vasquez, who is playing for Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the Cincinnati Reds' affiliate in the Class-A Midwest League.

"I was putting too much pressure on myself. I'm not even thinking about (stats) anymore and I'm doing a lot better."

Vasquez (5-10, 175 pounds) is batting .265 and looking forward to a strong second half.

"This is a hitter's league," he said. "I'm starting to pick it up. That's the nice thing about playing baseball every day. If you have a bad game, you always have tomorrow to do something good."

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