Bonilla named DH, Surhoff third baseman Slugger to sit defensively for platoon of Devereaux, Tarasco

Johnson sets O's lineup

OF Smith, P Krivda optioned to minors

March 29, 1996|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Orioles manager Davey Johnson had a couple of surprises left after all. He announced yesterday that slugger Bobby Bonilla would start the 1996 season as the designated hitter and newly acquired Tony Tarasco would be in right field on Opening Day.

Bonilla opened the exhibition season in right field and spent the past few weeks working steadily at third base, leaving room for speculation that he would play regularly at one of those two positions. Instead, Johnson chose Door No. 3 and will open with B. J. Surhoff at third and a platoon of Tarasco and Mike Devereaux in right field.

"Bobby is very valuable to me," Johnson said. "He's going to be my cleanup hitter all year long and he's a good right fielder, third baseman and first baseman. But I'd like to give some of the younger players an opportunity to play on an everyday basis."

Johnson was referring to Tarasco and Jeffrey Hammonds, who will bat eighth and ninth in the Orioles' well-stocked offensive lineup on Monday. Devereaux will play right field against left-handers.

That leaves Bonilla to adjust to a very unfamiliar role. He has spent most of his career in the National League, so the concept of sitting on the bench between at-bats will be very foreign to him.

"I told him, 'Bobby, I'm comfortable with you in right field or at first or third, but I want the kids to play . . . you're my insurance policy,' " Johnson said. "He was comfortable with that."

Though Bonilla did not complain, it was obvious that the full-time DH role was not his first choice. He arrived at training camp as the apparent starter in right field, and played there most of the spring.

"It's a little disappointing," he said, "but I'll do whatever it takes. I'm not going to rock the boat. He [Johnson] is going to take care of me and I'm going to take care of him."

It may not be a permanent arrangement. Johnson said only that this is the way he wants to start the season. The makeup of the Orioles roster makes it likely that the configuration of the lineup will be plastic, something Johnson apparently explained to Bonilla before he projected the Opening Day starting lineup.

"I wanted him to understand what my thinking was," Johnson said. "This is the way I think we need to go early. Bobby, to me, positions himself well in the outfield and looks good at third base. This is no knock against him. He's very talented. If there is a chink in the armor, he can patch it pretty quick."

The Orioles answered most of their lingering personnel questions yesterday. The club reassigned journeyman reliever Keith Shepherd to the minor-league camp in Sarasota, which was a mild surprise. The team also optioned outfielder Mark Smith and pitcher Rick Krivda to the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings, which was expected. That leaves just reliever Jimmy Myers and reserve catcher Cesar Devarez to sweat out the last roster spot.

The happiest man in camp may have been Tarasco, who has been with the club just a few weeks and has won the bigger chunk of the playing time in right. He was acquired in a spring deal for Triple-A outfielder Sherman Obando and now finds himself as a very important player on a very promising team.

"It's great, especially with a ballclub like this," he said. "I just want to prove to them that I can play every day. I expected to play against right-handers. I expected to be part of a platoon system. But this is the time for me to separate myself from the average ballplayer and become an impact player.

"I understand that [it's a platoon], but I'm just happy that their eyes are open. That means I have an opportunity to show them."

The rest of the starting lineup will be pretty much as originally projected, with Brady Anderson on top, Roberto Alomar hitting second and the heart of the order featuring Rafael Palmeiro batting third, Bonilla cleanup, Cal Ripken and Surhoff fifth and sixth.

Baseball '96

The Baltimore Sun previews the 1996 baseball season in a

special section today. It includes a look at Cal Ripken and Roberto Alomar, Orioles profiles, team-by-team outlooks and a position-by-position breakdown of the American League East. [Section F]

Opening Day Orioles lineup

Brady Anderson, CF

Roberto Alomar, 2B

Rafael Palmeiro, 1B

Bobby Bonilla, DH

Cal Ripken, SS

B. J. Surhoff, 3B

Chris Hoiles, C

Tony Tarasco, RF

Jeffrey Hammonds, LF

Mike Mussina, P

Orioles roster

The Orioles' projected 25-man Opening Day roster (pitcher Alan Mills will open the season on the disabled list):

Pitchers (11)

Armando Benitez, Jimmy Myers, Scott Erickson, Randy Myers, Jimmy Haynes Jesse Orosco, Roger McDowell, Arthur Rhodes, Kent Mercker, David Wells, Mike Mussina

Catchers (2)

Chris Hoiles, Gregg Zaun

Infielders (7)

Manny Alexander, Bill Ripken, Roberto Alomar, Cal Ripken, Jeff Huson, B. J. Surhoff, Rafael Palmeiro

Outfielders (5)

Brady Anderson, Jeff Hammonds, Bobby Bonilla, Tony Tarasco, Mike Devereaux

Pub Date: 3/29/96

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