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HIT STREAK COULD WIN RYAL A PROMOTION

Win or lose, recognition has not followed Mark Ryal this year.

Without much fanfare, the Buffalo Bisons right fielder has built a healthy .374 average with five homers and 22 RBIs. He has hit safely in 22 of his last 25 games and has a .567 slugging percentage.

One of Ryal's problems is he does not yet have enough plate appearances to qualify for the American Association batting title. Heading into Sunday's games, Iowa's Jeff Small led the pack with a .313 average and Ryal's injured teammate, Kevin Burdick, was second at .310.

If Ryal's stats counted, he would be far ahead, the Association's version of Len Dykstra.

Ryal was the hitting star in Sunday's 2-1 opening-game loss to Richmond at Pilot Field, quietly going 2 for 4 with an RBI.

He was responsible for the Herd's only run when he singled sharply to right field in the first inning, scoring Armando Moreno to tie the game, 1-1.

Ryal, who was rested in the second game, insists his current hot streak is not a big deal.

"It's not like I haven't done it before," he said. "I've done it at this level twice before."

One of those times was in 1986 with Edmonton of the Pacific Coast League, the California Angels' Triple A farm club. Ryal hit .340 that year and finished second in the PCL. That performance was good enough to get Ryal up to the Angels in 1987. But he was sent back to Edmonton in August, where he hit .429 in 16 games and earned a return trip to the Angels.

The 30-year-old Ryal, a Bison in 1985, got back to the Herd in January when he was signed by the Pittsburgh organization as a free agent.

When the season began, Ryal was used mainly as a designated hitter and did not play every day. However, when outfielder Wes Chamberlain hit a slump and later was sidelined by a pulled rib cage muscle, the door was open for Ryal to start.

"The main thing for me is getting the at-bats and seeing right-handed pitching every day," said Ryal. "There were a couple of guys injured and (Bisons manager) Terry (Collins) put me in the lineup. He gave a couple of guys who were struggling a couple days off -- that's when I started hitting. It has really worked out well."

Indeed it has. There may be nothing that could get Ryal out of the everyday lineup now, except a promotion to the Pirates. That is not something Ryal spends time worrying about.

"I sat down in Triple A all year long in '86 hitting .342," he said. "You can't sit around and ponder things like that. You just have to put the numbers up. There's nothing I can do about it. I'm just going to go out there and finish the year off well. If I do get called up, I think I will be deserving."

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