Orioles Profiles

March 29, 1996

Roberto Alomar

12 Second baseman

Role: He will help the Orioles in every way possible, with his defense (five Gold Gloves), his hitting (four straight years of .300 or better), his speed (206 steals the past five years), and his presence (Cardinals manager Tony La Russa calls Alomar and Cal Ripken the two smartest players in baseball).

What 1996 means to him: Alomar lost some luster in 1995, leaving Toronto under less-than-amicable terms; some people in the Blue Jays' front office said he quit on the team late in the season. It could be that Alomar just needed a change of scenery; with a three-year contract in a baseball-crazy city like Baltimore, his star will ascend again.

X-factor: Alomar and Cal Ripken should complement and help and push each other, like Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Alomar already plays at a level all his own, and to think Ripken may make him better . . . wow.

Statistically speaking: On June 17, Alomar set the AL record for consecutive errorless games for a second baseman (90), a streak that ended at 104. Ripken holds the major-league record for shortstops.

Manny Alexander

6 Infielder

Role: Manager Davey Johnson used him all over during spring training: third base, center field, left field and his natural position, shortstop. But it will be harder to find him work during the regular season.

What 1996 means to him: Another year of waiting for a chance to play shortstop for the Orioles, waiting for Cal Ripken to take a day off or change positions. If the Orioles win with Ripken and Alomar as their DP combination, nothing's going to change.

X-factor: Johnson loves Alexander's speed and arm. If Surhoff struggles at third, maybe Alexander will get a shot there.

Statistically speaking: He stole 168 bases in 222 attempts in the minors and went 11-for-15 for the O's last year.

Chris Hoiles

23 Catcher

Role: He should have a lot of RBI opportunities, batting behind B. J. Surhoff and Cal Ripken. More important to the Orioles is that he is effective as a catcher, with good pitch selection and hands. He threw out only 22 of 86 runners attempting to steal, but those numbers should improve this year, because the O's have acquired several pitchers good at holding runners (David Wells being the best).

What 1996 means to him: Coming off a rough 1995, he needs to have a good year. Hoiles is signed through 1999.

X-factor: Manager Davey Johnson values defense strongly, and if Hoiles doesn't throw well, then Gregg Zaun or somebody else likely will catch against teams that run well.

Statistically speaking: Hoiles had 37 hits in his last 109 at-bats (.339), with four doubles, a triple, six homers and 20 RBIs.

B. J. Surhoff

17 Third baseman

Role: Surhoff asked manager Davey Johnson for a chance to win the third base job. After several weeks of taking grounders off his shins and some tough days relearning a position he hadn't played since 1994, Surhoff became more comfortable and earned the spot. Surhoff, signed through 1998, will hit fifth or sixth.

What 1996 means to him: After nine seasons in Milwaukee, he gets a chance to play for a front-runner -- and perhaps in the postseason.

X-factor: He hasn't hit well at Camden Yards -- .190 with two homers and six RBIs in 63 at-bats.

Statistically speaking: Runner on third, late innings, this may be the one Oriole whom pitchers don't want to face because he almost always make contact. He was 5-for-9 with the bases loaded.

Arthur Rhodes

53 Pitcher

Role: Spot starter and long reliever. On other staffs, the long reliever is the mop-up man, but Davey Johnson uses his 11th pitcher differently from most other managers. If one of his regular starters feels as if he has a dead arm or is hurting a little, Johnson will be quick to start Rhodes. Doing so guarantees that his regular rotation stays fresh and that Rhodes stays sharp.

What 1996 means to him: Like Jeffrey Hammonds, this is an important year for him because he's eligible for arbitration after 1996. If Rhodes struggles early, the O's might look to deal him.

X-factor: Rhodes has split time between the majors and minors each of the past five seasons. He won't this year because he's out of options and can't be sent to the minors without being passed through waivers.

Statistically speaking: His ERA last year was 7.16 as a starter, 4.88 as a reliever.

Jimmy Myers

46 Pitcher

Role: A nonroster player who made the team off his consistent spring, Myers will be the third right-hander in the bullpen, behind Roger McDowell and Armando Benitez. A middle reliever.

What 1996 means to him: Vindication, in a way. He was promoted last June 23 and didn't make any appearances the first four days he was with the team. The fifth day, the Orioles led 9-2 late and Armando Benitez was left in the game to get work. After the game, Myers was sent back to Triple-A, and after the season he was taken off the roster.

X-factor: The health of Alan Mills. As soon as Mills is ready to come back, Myers will be the pitcher on the bubble.

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