Surhoff makes opening statement with eighth-inning insurance RBI Third baseman stands out among new players

April 03, 1996|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,SUN STAFF

B. J. Surhoff's first official game as an Oriole yesterday had been largely uneventful. No hits in three at-bats. Only three chances at third base, all in the same inning.

It had the makings of a forgettable afternoon, but it would become so much more.

Surhoff delivered an insurance run in the eighth inning with a two-out, opposite-field double to left off former Baltimore reliever Terry Clark, scoring Bobby Bonilla from first base in the Orioles' 4-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals.

Of all the contributions made by Baltimore's newest players, his was among the most important.

Roberto Alomar doubled and scored the Orioles' first run of 1996. Closer Randy Myers set down the Royals in order in the ninth. And then there was Surhoff, who had stranded one runner in the first inning by flying to right, and another in the third by taking a called third strike.

With the Orioles holding a one-run lead, he was given one last chance. And he didn't squander it.

"It was a pitch away and I kind of slapped it down the line. From my perspective, I thought it was foul, but I couldn't really get a good view of it," said Surhoff, 31, who was signed as a free agent in December after spending nine seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers.

"It's good to get off on the right note. It helps a little bit, no matter how long you've been playing. I've had a number of slow starts, but it's only one game. But it feels good to contribute right away. I'm just glad it was fair."

Much was made during the exhibition season of Surhoff's becoming the Orioles' third baseman, a position he last played on a regular basis three years ago. He made two nice plays in the fifth, including when he ran down a foul pop by Jose Offerman with his back to home plate. And manager Davey Johnson showed confidence in him by not going with a late-inning defensive replacement.

"I wasn't worried about getting replaced," Surhoff said. "I don't anticipate getting taken out of the game. I didn't come here with the idea of playing seven innings."

Right fielder Tony Tarasco, acquired in a trade with the Montreal Expos, didn't get off to as auspicious a start as Surhoff. He struck out in his only two at-bats, then was lifted for a pinch hitter in the seventh.

He didn't have any putouts, nor did he have any complaints. He enjoyed the sellout crowd of 46,818 and the beauty of Camden Yards. And he was able to joke about his futility at the plate.

"I got the first couple of strikeouts out of the way. That makes it easier," he said, smiling, as music blared above his locker.

"I can't remember the last time I saw a sell-out crowd in Montreal. They were great to me in the field here. A lot of people were welcoming me. I wouldn't want to play anywhere else."

He even found something positive about his lack of activity in the outfield, saying, "Considering my arm has been a little sore, I'm kind of thankful."

Perhaps no one was as thankful to be in an Orioles uniform as Mike Devereaux, who batted for Tarasco, then received a warm ovation as he jogged to right field in the eighth.

He has a World Series ring from the Atlanta Braves, and fond memories of his first six seasons in Baltimore. And it was obvious from the way he spoke yesterday after going 0-for-2 that he's glad to be back.

"It was absolutely tremendous," he said of the crowd's response when he took the field. "I've always liked Baltimore, and it was unfortunate, but also fortunate, that I left. But to come back and get that kind of warm reception was just tremendous. Hopefully, I can do for the fans what they did for me."

Myers, signed as a free agent from the Chicago Cubs, made his Orioles debut a short one. He fell behind 2-0 on David Howard before retiring him on a fly ball to Devereaux, then struck out Les Norman on three pitches and needed only two to get Joe Randa to fly out.

"We've got 25 guys out there battling to win a ballgame, and I was fortunate enough to be able to come in and do my job. It's a team effort," he said.

Pub Date: 4/03/96

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