Orioles' Surhoff is warming up to hot corner He overcomes slow start with lots of hard work

March 31, 1996|By Brad Snyder | Brad Snyder,SUN STAFF

B J. Surhoff hasn't perfected the art of playing third base, but he seems to be settling into his relatively new position quite nicely.

Surhoff started a smooth double play in the seventh inning of yesterday's 11-7 exhibition victory over the Philadelphia Phillies and has made great strides defensively over the past several weeks.

"Things are just starting to come together," said Surhoff, a free agent signed by the Orioles in December who played six positions -- but not third base -- last season for the Milwaukee Brewers. "Hopefully, they'll continue to get better."

When Surhoff struggled defensively at the start of spring training, it set off warning signs that the Orioles might have a problem at third base.

Manager Davey Johnson doesn't think so. Last week Johnson named Bobby Bonilla -- the team's other potential third baseman -- the regular designated hitter.

Since Bonilla's a DH, Jeff Manto's in Japan and Leo Gomez is with the Chicago Cubs, the third base job is Surhoff's.

"He's done great," Johnson said. "He has a very accurate arm and good, soft hands."

What Surhoff doesn't have is much experience playing third base the past few years. He has not played there regularly since 1993.

When the Orioles signed Surhoff to a three-year contract, they knew about his versatility. He spent most of 1995 as an outfielder/first baseman and spent his first six seasons with the Brewers as a catcher.

What the Orioles didn't know about Surhoff was his work ethic.

"You just have to know about B. J.'s makeup," Johnson said. "He punishes himself when anything he does goes wrong. He's a perfectionist about it."

During spring training, Surhoff worked tirelessly with third base coach Sam Perlozzo in an effort to reacquaint himself with the position.

As Perlozzo helped Surhoff make some technical adjustments -- changing the position of his glove and his body when he fielded ground balls -- the coach learned all about Surhoff's perfectionism.

"He'd get down on himself a little bit," Perlozzo said. "He'd catch 20 balls in a row and the next one he wasn't quite there. We'd say, 'You did everything right except one or two you weren't sure on.' "

Perlozzo knows those moments of positive reinforcement are important but that Surhoff's perfectionism also serves him well.

"He's as good as anyone I've ever had in picking up technique," Perlozzo said. "I think he's going to be a great third baseman."

Surhoff has impressed fellow infielders such as Bill Ripken with his fielding.

"He's got good glove actions, and he gives nice throws on the double plays," Ripken said. "For now, it's just a matter of him playing more and more games and getting more and more confidence. He's going to be fine."

Immediately after yesterday's game, in which he also singled and scored a run, Surhoff headed to the training room to lift weights.

With his work ethic, Surhoff recognizes that long-term success at third base is just a matter of time.

"I just had to get out there and start playing there," Surhoff said. "It's an ongoing process."

Ups and downs

Highlights and lowlights from the Orioles' 11-7 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies yesterday: Ups Brady Anderson hit his sixth home run of spring training, was 2-for-3 and scored a run.

UPS

* Brady Anderson hit his sixth home run of spring training, was 2-for-3 and scored a run.

* Bobby Bonilla hit his third home run of the spring and was 2-for-5 with three RBIs and two runs scored.

* Jeffrey Hammonds had two hits and two RBIs.

* Tony Tarasco drove in the game-winning run with an eighth-inning sacrifice fly.

DOWNS

Kent Mercker, despite getting the win, gave up seven hits, three earned runs and three walks in four innings on a day when he admittedly did not have good stuff.

Roberto Alomar messed up a relay throw to Cal Ripken on what should have been an easy double play in the fourth inning -- a sign the All-Star shortstop and All-Star second baseman are still getting to know each other.

By the numbers

Cal Ripken's consecutive-games streak is at 2,153 games, and on June 13 he is scheduled to break Sachio Kinugasa's world record of 2,215 games. Kinugasa played for the Hiroshima Carp in the Japan Central League.

Designated hitter Bobby Bonilla begins this season with a 20-game hitting streak carrying over from 1995.

Ripken has a 70-game errorless streak in progress.

The next homer Chris Hoiles hits will be the 100th of his career.

First baseman Rafael Palmeiro needs 45 hits for 1,500 in his career.

Ripken needs seven homers to pass Eddie Murray as the organization's all-time leading home run hitter (Ripken has 327, Murray hit 333).

Ripken needs three extra-base hits to pass Brooks Robinson's club career record of 818.

Roberto Alomar needs three more runs for 700 in his career.

Mike Mussina begins the year with the highest winning percentage of any active pitcher (.703).

Randy Myers needs seven more saves to achieve 250 in his career.

Alomar needs one more RBI for 500 in his career.

Ripken needs 129 hits for 2,500 in his career.

Mike Devereaux needs three homers for 100 in his career.

Ripken needs 91 RBIs to pass Robinson's club career record of 1,357.

Palmeiro needs six homers for 200 in his career.

Jesse Orosco needs 31 appearances for 850 in his career.

Roger McDowell needs 18 more appearances for 700 in his career.

Alomar needs four more steals for 300 in his career.

Ripken needs 36 doubles to pass Robinson's club record of 482 in his career.

Pub Date: 3/31/96

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