Alomar shows Toronto what it's missing Oriole goes 3-for-3 with 3 RBIs, steal in 1st game against ex-mates

Makes point in 14-1 win

Sizzling Alexander adds another four hits

March 08, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Orioles second baseman Roberto Alomar downplayed his first game against the Toronto Blue Jays, his former team.

No significance whatsoever. No big deal. Couldn't imagine why everyone kept asking him about the Blue Jays yesterday. Just another ballgame.

Sure. Alomar actually asked manager Davey Johnson to play in this game, and mentioned to a teammate how he needed to get a couple of hits and make a nice play on defense.

He did even better: Alomar went 3-for-3, drove in three runs, stole a base, and shined on defense in the Orioles' 14-1 victory, generally emphasizing the point that Toronto is going to miss his talent. He was so good that you needed a four-hit day to avoid being completely overshadowed -- which is what shortstop Manny Alexander did, his latest in a series of great spring performances.

"[Alomar] and Manny," said outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds, "put on a show."

Alexander was the opener, Alomar the main event. "That was fun playing with him," said Alexander.

One had to wonder if the thought occurred to anyone in the Toronto dugout that games against Alomar might be like this for a while. An All-Star player trying like crazy to beat you in every way possible.

Manager Davey Johnson wasn't sure if Alomar wanted to play in this game. A few days ago, Johnson approached Cal Ripken and Alomar to ask which superstar wanted to play Wednesday in Fort Myers, and which would play against the Blue Jays yesterday. But before Johnson could really delve into the subject, Alomar cut him off and volunteered for the Toronto game. "He wanted to play the Blue Jays," Johnson said.

Batting third, Alomar was booed when he was introduced in the first inning ("Why are they booing me?" he would ask Blue Jays outfielder Joe Carter later, at second base). Then the curtain went up.

With Alexander on third and one out, Alomar flied to center, driving home a run. In the second inning, he singled to left, driving home two runs, and subsequently swiped second. He singled to left again in the fourth, and doubled in the sixth.

It was his defense in the third inning, however, that raised murmurs in the crowd. With a runner at first and nobody out, Domingo Cedeno chopped a grounder to second. An instant after the ball reached Alomar, it was on its way to Alexander at second; Alomar had gloved and immediately flipped the ball sideways, a basketball touch pass in baseball.

"I got a surprise there," said Alexander, who threw to first for a double play. "I almost wasn't ready for that."

Blue Jays catcher Charlie O'Brien singled with one out in the fifth inning, and Alomar took the relay from the outfield, relaxed, and then turned and fired to first, nearly catching O'Brien by surprise. (O'Brien apparently didn't appreciate Alomar's effort, barreling into second on a force play and almost taking down Alomar; the two exchanged some words, Alomar telling O'Brien that type of aggressiveness was out of place in an exhibition game.)

Naturally, Alomar fielded questions afterward about his intensity. "I'm just trying to get ready for the season," he said. "Playing them is no different than playing any other team. . . . I've left Toronto. I don't know why you guys keep talking about it."

Sure. His actions, and his teammates, said otherwise.

"I know he was happy [to play well]," Johnson said.

Alexander said: "You could tell he wanted to do well."

The same could be said for Alexander, whose outlook on his future with the Orioles seems to be evolving daily. When Alexander arrived in camp, he was resigned to the idea the Orioles were going to trade him, an idea he welcomed.

Alexander has changed his mind. Johnson has played him in different spots in spring training, at short, at third, and now he's considering trying Alexander in the outfield, to find ways to get him in the lineup.

"I've thought about that," Johnson said. "He's certainly got the arm. It might be something I look at, because the outfield is an area where we don't have a lot of depth. . . . Maybe I'll put him in center field, where he can see the ball coming off the bat."

About the only place Johnson won't play him is at second base, where he played for the Orioles last season. That would waste his strong arm, Johnson said. "You wouldn't put a Leo da Vinci [painting] in a sidewalk cafe art shop."

Alexander said: "I just want to play. If he puts me in the outfield, I don't care. I just want the opportunity to play. I don't care where."

Alexander is confident, too, he isn't going to be traded. When he signed his contract, he said, Orioles general manager Pat Gillick assured him he was staying with the Orioles. "I'd like to stay here," Alexander said.

If Alomar and the Orioles regularly play as they did yesterday, who wouldn't?

Pub Date: 3/08/96

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