Orioles Profiles

March 29, 1996

Cal Ripken

8 Shortstop

Role: Roberto Alomar, winner of five Gold Gloves, was asked who would dictate the Orioles' defense, who would be responsible for positioning. "He will," Alomar said, pointing at Ripken. The Orioles' shortstop also will be expected to be an important complementary run-producer, hitting behind cleanup man Bobby Bonilla and No. 5 hitter B. J. Surhoff.

What 1996 means to him: Ripken said throughout 1995 that he would prefer the spotlight to be on his team and not on The Streak. He should get his wish this season, one way or the other: Either the O's will get to play in the postseason for the first time since 1983, or they will be the biggest disappointment in baseball. He's signed through 1997.

X-factor: The consecutive-games record is his, and barring injury, he'll have the world record in June. Perhaps this will be the year Ripken takes a day off; when Davey Johnson was introduced as the Orioles' manager, he said he would talk to Ripken about resting. We'll see.

Statistically speaking: Enters this season with 70 consecutive errorless games. He set the major-league record for consecutive errorless games at shortstop, 95.

Bill Ripken

3 Infielder

Role: He'll be used in a support role for defense, likely starting at second on those very few days Roberto Alomar doesn't, and filling in at third in late innings for B. J. Surhoff. If Cal Ripken's consecutive-games streak happens to end sometime this year, it figures that his brother would get to replace him that first day.

What 1996 means to him: Bill Ripken is back where he wants to be, after playing in Texas and Triple-A Buffalo from 1993 to 1995. This is a chance for him to re-establish himself with the O's as a utility player.

X-factor: Ripken will be valued for his defense and clubhouse presence. He is extremely vocal, cracks jokes and makes those around him -- including brother Cal -- laugh and relax. When the Orioles let him go after 1992, they said one reason was that he wouldn't be happy in a utility role. But he seems to have embraced the job this spring, and manager Davey Johnson repeatedly has complimented his play.

Statistically speaking: Ripken's experience seems to show in his gradual improvement as a hitter. He batted .292 for Buffalo last year, and after the Indians promoted him to the majors, Ripken had seven hits, including two homers, in 17 at-bats.

Brady Anderson

9 Outfielder

Role: As manager Davey Johnson said, he is the club's best left fielder and best center fielder, and he probably would be the best right fielder, as well. He likely will spend a lot of time in left, with Mike Devereaux in center at the end of games. Anderson also will lead off; batting ahead of Roberto Alomar and Rafael Palmeiro, he could improve on his 1995 career best of 108 runs.

What 1996 means to him: Like Bonilla, he will have to prove himself to this new regime in the last year of his contract. If he has a big year, the O's may consider picking up his $4 million option for 1997. If he doesn't, Anderson -- like Ben McDonald last winter -- will have to choose between taking less money and staying or testing the market. Best thing for him to do is to be so good that the O's really have no choice but to bring him back.

X-factor: Alomar is great at taking pitches and giving runners a chance to steal, so it figures that Anderson will improve on the 26 stolen bases he had last year.

Statistically speaking: Anderson was one of only two major-leaguers to reach double figures in doubles, triples and homers last year, the other being Lance Johnson, now with the Mets.

Mike Devereaux

10 Outfielder

Role: He, Jeffrey Hammonds and Tony Tarasco will share two spots. When he's on the field, Devereaux likely will play center or right, and he may occasionally be the designated hitter. When the Orioles are leading during the late innings, it figures that Devereaux will be inserted for defense if he's not already in the game.

What 1996 means to him: Devereaux made a successful transition last year from a full-time player to a role player; he batted .306 in 92 games for the White Sox, and, after being traded to the Braves in late August, was voted the Most Valuable Player of the National League Championship Series and appeared in five of the six World Series games. If he does this job well, the Orioles probably will want him back next year, too. A chance for him to make a home for himself in Baltimore again.

X-factor: Devereaux is expected to play regularly, but the Orioles will want to develop Tarasco and Hammonds, and if those two youngsters hit, that probably would cut into Devereaux's playing time.

Statistically speaking: Devereaux batted .382 on the first pitch last year. During the four previous years, he hit .225 on the first pitch.

Bobby Bonilla

26 DH-Outfielder

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