MILWAUKEE, AUG. 22 -- He is a consummate team player chasing one of the most individual records in professional sports.

Paul Molitor's hitting streak -- at 36 and counting heading into tonight's game against the Kansas City Royals -- has become the subject of a media swirl the last 10 days. But Molitor, the Milwaukee Brewers' designated hitter, does not seem daunted.

"The fact that we've played well has made the streak much more enjoyable," he said. "If we were scuttling along, 25 games out, it wouldn't be much fun.

The Brewers have inched within seven games of first place and, more crucial to the streak continuing, everybody's hitting well. Pitchers must throw to Molitor with Robin Yount (.387 in his last eight games, .336 since the all-star break), Greg Brock (.333 in his last seven games) and Rob Deer (grand slams in consecutive games against Cleveland) behind him.

All this on a team so loose Manager Tom Trebelhorn was quoted Friday by the Milwaukee Sentinel as saying "boys will be boys" after losing bullpen ace Dan Plesac for four games this week. Reason? Plesac hit a wall in Cleveland while shagging flies, straining his left elbow.

Still, there is pressure. Molitor has said he has been overaggressive in recent games and that he would rather settle the issue before the eighth or ninth inning.

He handles the pressure by doubting the streak could possibly continue through Sept. 13, the earliest date it could reach 57 games.

"It could be a hot pitcher; it could be injury," he said, knocking the wood of a microphone-laden table to ward off that possibility. "It really doesn't make sense to worry about things you can't control.

"It's amazing to have a streak now that seems to have gone on for a very long time and realize {DiMaggio's} got me by 21."

All this leaves Trebelhorn with precious little to do, although he did decry some of the "silliness" he said has set in.

"I saw several years ago, in watching Paul play, that the best thing that you can do with Paul Molitor is stay out of the way and let him play," Trebelhorn said.

That's precisely what he has done, leaving him at the top of the lineup at designated hitter after Molitor returned from his second visit to the disabled list July 16.

But it's been a mixed blessing for Molitor. If he gets his hit early in the game, the pressure's off and he can relax. But as the innings roll on, all he can do is wait for his next at-bat -- if it comes.

Trebelhorn said Molitor could be put back in the field soon after the Brewers announce their postseason roster next month.

"That's our timetable, if we need him to assume a defensive position. There's no need now to play him; that's just when he'd be physically able to play.

"We want to make very sure that the stress and strain of throwing on that arm is not done quickly," he added. Molitor has played only 79 of 123 games this season.

Given a choice, Molitor would rather not be in the dugout thinking about hitting. "I don't feel I'm ready to be etched in at DH for the rest of my career," he said. "I would like to get out there, hopefully by the first of September."

Until then, he must cope with the questions from the media. The trail behind him has grown from a handful in Baltimore to a trailerful in Cleveland to a roomful back at County Stadium. The room underneath third base will be his permanent postgame home until the streak ends.

But he consistently has said the growing media presence has not bothered him, although he called it a "distraction" in Cleveland. He has been patient with the media, and joked about the need for the special trailer in Cleveland to handle television and print reporters.

"If this doesn't jinx it, nothing will," he said. "When you start setting aside special trailers, it's kind of a strange feeling, really, to have that kind of attention . . . Sometimes, it seems as if they're talking about a different person."

But he also has benefited from just plain luck. One of the times he felt the streak was in real danger was Aug. 13 in Baltimore when he struggled in four at-bats against Mike Boddicker.

In his last at-bat, he faced Tom Niedenfuer and homered to left.

Wednesday, he faced knuckleballer Tom Candiotti, against whom Molitor had been three for 13. Candiotti has been one of the American League's hotter pitchers and was its player of the week two weeks ago. But Candiotti was hurt early in the game, and Molitor hit against Don Gordon, whose ERA rests around 6.00.

During the streak, Molitor is hitting .421 (64-152) with 39 runs, 32 RBI, 17 doubles, three triples and seven homers.

For the season, he is hitting .372, but has only 349 plate appearances (307 at-bats, 41 walks, one time hit by pitch). And with three plate appearances per game for the rest of the season, he would qualify for the batting title.

So, if his streak does end, how about baseball's other impossible dream? No thanks. "The pressure of hitting .400 would be a lot greater," he said, laughing all the way.