It's almost time for O's to play kids

BUSTER ON BASEBALL

June 25, 1995|By BUSTER OLINEY

Ben McDonald's shoulder is sore and he goes on the disabled list. Kevin Brown's finger is dislocated and he's sidelined for perhaps a month. The Orioles are some eight games behind the Boston Red Sox.

Much more of this and it could be time to just start planning and playing for the future. Play Manny Alexander every day at second base. Play Jeffrey Hammonds every day in right field (and leave him there). Leave Scott Klingenbeck in the rotation and find out whether he'll ever be more than a guy who just gives you a chance to win. Call up Brian Sackinsky, Jimmy Haynes, Mark Smith, Alex Ochoa, find out what they can do. Find out whether they can help.

But not now. It's too early yet, because the Red Sox are the Red Sox and because they've tried their best to collapse in recent weeks; fortunately for Boston, nobody in the American League East has shown much interest in catching them.

Forget, for now, about trading for David Wells, or Doug Drabek, or another pitcher for the rotation. Unless the other Orioles start playing better, one pitcher or one position player isn't going to make a difference.

Play the guys you've got. If they get better and climb back into the race, then the Orioles should try to make a deal in August or September to augment the club. If they continue to flounder or -- horrors -- play worse, because of their devastated rotation, then it's time to move on.

K? The point at which this decision should be made is nearing.

Strawberry strategy

New York Yankees manager Buck Showalter called his Los Angeles Dodgers counterpart, Tom Lasorda, with a proposal. "I've got a left-handed-hitting, power-hitting outfielder you can have," Showalter said, "if you give me Raul Mondesi. His name is Darryl Strawberry." Lasorda laughed at Showalter's humor, then the Yankees' manager asked Lasorda -- who managed Strawberry in recent years -- whether he had any advice. "Yeah, be ready," Lasorda said. "Be ready for what?" Showalter asked. Lasorda: "Be ready for more distractions than you ever %o imagined." . . . The Dodgers held a team meeting this week, players only, to discuss the uninspiring start that has them playing about .500 ball. "You look at this team," said second baseman Delino DeShields, "and you say, 'We should be a first-place team.' . . . We should be winning this thing easy with this talent. But half the time, we just beat ourselves." Kevin Mitchell is in San Diego, which is a far cry from Japan or San Francisco. There's a very good chance, because of a bad knee, that Mitchell won't play again this year. . . . The Yankees and Brewers reportedly still are talking about making some sort of deal that would enable Danny Tartabull to join Milwaukee, and pitcher Bill Wegman and outfielder Greg Vaughn to join New York. . . Oakland Athletics right-hander Steve Karsay, a talented young pitcher acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays for Rickey Henderson in 1993, finally conceded the inevitable and underwent reconstructive surgery of his pitching elbow last week.

Piniella's patience

Seattle Mariners manager Lou Piniella is known for his lack of patience, but he worked hard to get young outfielder Darren Bragg out of a hitting slump before finally sending Bragg to the minors this week. But even in being patient, Piniella was impatient. At first, Bragg was told to keep his elbows up. Later, he was told to keep his elbows down but to throw the bat into the pitch, while holding onto it, to get the head of the bat out in front. In the visitors' locker room one Saturday night, Piniella had Bragg throwing the bat to get a feel for what he was talking about -- except that he told Bragg to let go of the bat, which destroyed several lockers. . . . The Cleveland Indians won just 11 of their first 18 games against left-handed starters, compared with 25 of 32 against right-handers, confirmation of the league-wide conventional wisdom that the team is vulnerable against lefties. "I'm not going to talk about that," said Indians manager Mike Hargrove. "I'm tired of it."

Bill Ripken? Just say no

About Bill Ripken: a bad idea for the Orioles. And here's why.

First and foremost, Alexander. He's working harder, he's getting better and he's playing with more confidence.

He has shown a tendency for having the yips -- nervousness -- in critical situations, and some of his errors and his failures to turn double plays have hurt the Orioles. But that's to be expected, to a certain degree, because Alexander is playing a position at which he's not entirely comfortable. He has given the Orioles a bit of speed, the threat of the stolen base.

If the Orioles trade for Ripken, what would become of Alexander? A bench player, until he finally gets his chance to play shortstop for the O's? That's insane, because Alexander needs to play to improve, and because there's no need for a change at shortstop any time soon; Cal Ripken is playing a great shortstop, again.

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