Alexander takes turn in outfield Infielder plays in left to keep hot bat going

Orioles notebook

March 10, 1996|By Jason LaCanfora | Jason LaCanfora,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Slick-fielding infielder Manny Alexander and burly slugger Kevin Mitchell have more in common than most people would assume.

Although they appear to be polar opposites on the field, both have been moved to unusual positions by manager Davey Johnson to accommodate their hot bats.

Alexander, who entered with a .692 batting average, played left field in the Orioles' exhibition game against the New York Mets last night.

When Mitchell, who signed this week with Boston, played for Johnson in New York, he played at first, third, shortstop and the outfield so Johnson could keep his bat in the lineup.

Yesterday, it was Alexander's turn, shuffling from the middle infield to left field. Alexander fielded his position well enough, grabbing the only ball hit his way.

Alexander, who went 1-for-4 with an RBI, moved to a more familiar ground at shortstop in the sixth inning.

"I just wanted to get him in the lineup to see his bat," Johnson said.

"I told him just don't run into any walls or anything like that. I don't want to sit down a guy while he's swinging the bat that

well."

Alexander said he never has taken a fly ball in practice, much less field the position in a game, and yes, it felt a bit strange. But things could be much worse at the end of the bench.

"When I looked at the lineup I thought it was a mistake," Alexander said. "I couldn't believe I was in left field. I just have to do the best I can and try to catch every ball. I don't want to play left field all the time, but now I'm happy to get a chance to show my bat."

Rhodes up, Mills down

Alan Mills and Arthur Rhodes appear to be at different stages in their recoveries from shoulder surgery.

Rhodes was terrific in the B game yesterday against the Mets, yielding no runs, one hit, and striking out two batters. Mills was wild and hittable in his two innings, in which he gave up two runs.

"Not good today," Mills said. "I just had a dead arm. I'm going through it -- when you are rehabilitating you want everything to be perfect, and it wasn't today.

"I'd like to start the season [on time] because of the way the team stacks up, but I've got to keep everything in perspective. . . . The first thing for me is to be healthy."

Johnson said he is very impressed with Rhodes' control and velocity. Rhodes threw just 42 pitches and walked none, and his fastball was consistently clocked at 91-93 mph.

"I think he is maybe better than I expected him to be," Johnson said. "He's really been wonderful. I didn't think his arm strength would be there, but he's looked great. Mills is still fighting himself. He's pushing too hard."

Pitching in

Young pitchers Brian Sackinsky, Aaron Lane and Calvin Maduro combined to give up two hits over four shutout innings in Baltimore's 6-2 win in the B game.

"Aaron Lane mixed his pitches well," Johnson said. "Maduro threw very well. He has good control for a young guy. He's very intelligent. Sackinsky has been nothing but great for us."

Sackinsky has allowed one hit and no runs in three innings this spring. Lane was coming off a loss during which he allowed LTC three runs and four hits in 1 2/3 innings.

Miscellaneous

Mike Mussina said his strained left stomach muscle is feeling much better and he is scheduled to throw on the side today. Johnson said Mussina will throw at least two times before he pitches in a game. . . . Roberto Alomar batted third last night and Rafael Palmeiro fourth. That's the first time Alomar did not bat second. . . . B. J. Surhoff may be struggling in the field, but he's doing fine at the plate. His two-run triple last night helped beat the Mets and raised his average to .286.

Ups and downs

Highlights and lowlights from the Orioles' 5-3 win over the New York Mets last night:

Ups

Roger McDowell pitched two shutout innings in his first work in an A game this spring.

Cal Ripken had an RBI single in the fourth, his second hit and first RBI of the spring.

Ripken and Roberto Alomar turned their first double play together -- and the first for the Orioles this spring.

Downs

B. J. Surhoff committed another error at third base, his third in two games.

Kent Mercker walked four and gave up two hits in four innings.

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