Alexander's getting short on patience 'Why don't you trade me?' say perennial backup

Sidelight

April 11, 1996|By Brad Snyder | Brad Snyder,SUN STAFF

The alternative rock music is being played loudly before the Orioles' game with the Indians. The atmosphere is jovial because the Orioles, who entered the game with a 5-1 record, are winning.

Almost everyone is happy, except shortstop-in-waiting Manny Alexander.

Alexander, who is unhappy with his playing time and role, is tired of waiting. And with an All-Star infield in front of him, including baseball's Iron Man, Cal Ripken, at shortstop, he doesn't see his chance coming any time soon.

"You've got Alomar and you've got Junior [Ripken]," Alexander said. "Why are you keeping me here? Why don't you trade me?"

Alexander is only 25 but he is entering his eighth professional season as the team's shortstop of the future. Unfortunately for him, Ripken played in his 2,160th consecutive game last night and shows no signs of slowing down.

Alexander has appeared in only 11 games as a shortstop during his major-league career.

"I know it's never going to happen," Alexander said of being the Orioles' everyday shortstop.

"This may the worst scenario for a young player," assistant general manager Kevin Malone said. "We feel he should be playing every day, but unfortunately he's got a Hall of Famer in front of him."

Alexander received extensive playing time during spring training. He played shortstop, third base, left field and center field, hitting .300 with five doubles, a triple and 10 RBIs.

But Alexander has appeared in only three regular-season games, as a pinch runner on Opening Day and last night, and at shortstop in Saturday's 8-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins. He struck out in his only at-bat.

He said he is not surprised by the drop-off in playing time.

"In spring training, I play every year," Alexander said. "They have to give you a chance to play."

Alexander has impressed new manager Davey Johnson with his arm strength, and Johnson said putting an infielder with an arm like Alexander's at second base would be like putting a DaVinci painting in a cafe art shop.

Alexander played 82 games at second base last season, platooning with Bret Barberie, batting .236 with three home runs and 23 RBIs and stealing 11 bases.

With Alomar at second, Johnson tried Alexander in the outfield during spring training.

"I don't want to play there," Alexander said. "I don't feel comfortable there. I don't like third [base] either, but it's more comfortable [than the outfield]."

The Orioles still believe Alexander's future is at shortstop.

"We think he's going to be one of the best shortstops in the American League," Malone said.

So does Alexander. But the only time he plays that position regularly is in winter ball in his native Dominican Republic. He batted .231 for the Estrellas team but had a fine season defensively.

"I work hard in winter ball because I can't get a chance to play down here," Alexander said.

Alexander had one year and 70 days of major-league service time entering this season. It takes six seasons of major-league service to become a free agent. He cannot leave the Orioles unless they release or trade him.

Malone said there have been trade offers for Alexander, but he's "just too valuable to give up."

"We have a lot of bright plans for him," Malone said. "We just don't know when his time is going to come."

Pub Date: 4/11/96

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