As batman, Alexander is unlikely hero

SIDELIGHT

July 03, 1995|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,Sun Staff Writer

TORONTO -- Jeffrey Hammonds smiled broadly after the Orioles' incredible ninth-inning comeback against the Toronto Blue Jays, a rally that was started and finished by second baseman Manny Alexander.

"Manny," Hammonds mused. "Manny for president."

Until Alexander is actually inaugurated into office, the Orioles will be quite satisfied with him holding down second base. He was, for years, their shortstop of the future, but now he is the second baseman of the present. In a big way.

When he was given a chance to take the job away from Bret Barberie on June 4, Alexander was batting .176. He's hitting .285 now, and on the seven-day trip that concluded yesterday, Alexander had four multiple-hit games, hit his second career homer and drove in eight runs.

Never, Regan conceded, did he think that Alexander would hit as well as he has. Regan thought, when he saw Alexander in the off-season, that he had a chance to be a good-field, little-hit second baseman who could steal bases.

But a friend, Charlie Manuel, kept telling Regan that Alexander would be a pretty good player.

Before that happened, though, Alexander needed to improve his awareness of game situations. He needed to take more pitches. He needed to have an idea of what the team needed in a particular spot.

In the last month, Regan said, Alexander's started doing that. He's taking more pitches, hitting behind a runner in scoring position, looking to hit fastballs to right field, rather than just swing hard and pull the ball.

Alexander homered to lead off the ninth inning yesterday, drawing the Orioles to within 7-3, and then he batted again with the bases loaded and two outs, the potential tying run on third and the potential lead run on second. Blue Jays reliever Tim Crabtree couldn't afford to walk him.

"I knew he was going to give me three or four fastballs in the at-bat," Alexander said.

And, Regan would say later, "Manny's a pretty good fastball hitter."

He singled up the middle, scoring both Chris Hoiles and Curtis Goodwin, and after he rounded first and headed back to the base, Alexander clapped his hands four times and gave first base coach Al Bumbry a double low-five.

"It was a good day for San Pedro de Macoris," said Regan. "Manny got the big hits and Armando Benitez got his first big-league victory.

"I'll tell you what, [Alexander] has turned into a pretty good little clutch hitter."

Manny Alexander is turning into a pretty good little player. Period.

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