SARASOTA, Fla. -- If the Orioles are going to make a run at the American League East title, they are going to have to go back to school on the base paths.
That is the gospel according to manager John Oates, who lured former teammate and two-time National League base-stealing champion Davey Lopes to the Orioles to give the club a refresher course on base running.
"That's one of the three areas that are going to receive the most attention this spring," said Oates, who will turn the team over to Lopes for a lengthy lecture on the subject today.
Lopes will spend about an hour with the entire team, going over every aspect of the running game. The team will put some of his theories into practice later in the day.
"He'll work with the entire squad tomorrow," Oates said. "Then we'll break it down into three groups -- below-average speed, average speed and above-average speed. He certainly won't be talking to Darrell Sherman the same way he talks to Sam Horn."
The Orioles ranked last in the major leagues in stolen bases in 1991, with 50 in 83 attempts. But the emphasis isn't necessarily going to be on stealing bases. Lopes also figures to concentrate on going from first to third on a hit, something the club was not aggressive about last year.
Today will be the first time Lopes teaches base-running skills to the Orioles as a team, but he has been working individually with some players since camp opened.
* SHERMAN MAKES HIS BID: Rule V draftee Sherman welcomed the move from the San Diego Padres organization to the Orioles this year, though he still has to be considered a long shot to make the Opening Day roster.
"I think I can help this team," he said. "I've averaged 55 stolen bases the past three years, and having Davey Lopes here should keep me on track."
Sherman, left unprotected by the Padres during the winter, was the third player chosen in the Rule V draft. If he does not make the Orioles, he has to be offered back to the Padres for half the $50,000 draft price.
If nothing else, that provision of Rule V guarantees him a legitimate chance to prove himself, which is all a young player really can hope for.
"That makes it easier on me," he said. "If I don't put pressure on myself, I'll be all right. I'm just going to be myself and let the chips fall where they may."
* A DAY OFF: General manager Roland Hemond took off yesterday to attend the wedding of his son Jay in Sarasota. Hemond became the second Oriole to miss a day of training camp because of a wedding. The other nuptial no-show was Juan Bell, who took part in his sister's wedding.