Alexander isn't leaving bench to cheer, either Glum sub deserves shot or trade, Johnson says

Sidelight

July 02, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

TORONTO -- Friends on and off the Orioles advised Manny Alexander he's better served by not complaining about his status as the perpetual heir apparent to shortstop Cal Ripken, and Alexander apparently has taken this to heart.

But actions sometimes can speak louder than words. When some Orioles player would score a run during the four-game series in New York, Alexander remained in the corner of the bench, not standing to clap or shake hands in the dugout. Rafael Palmeiro hit two homers last Friday, and Alexander didn't move from his seat.

When asked about this yesterday, manager Davey Johnson expressed sympathy for Alexander, rather than criticize the young utility player. You have to look at it, Johnson said, from the point of view of Alexander, who has played in the field once in the last 15 games. Johnson suggested that the Orioles should deal Alexander if he isn't going to play.

"When you can't play someone at the position he was bred to play," Johnson said, "it would be hard [for him] to get excited. He's the one guy on the club who has to play behind Ripken. He's waiting for a chance and he's got someone of the magnitude of Ripken in front of him.

"We went through that period when [B. J. Surhoff was hurt] and we needed a third baseman. Billy [Ripken] did a good job playing third. But if I don't slide Cal to third and let this kid play his natural position a little, you might as well trade him."

Johnson continued, posing a rhetorical question. "We've traded away a lot of young kids in the past without giving them the chance to establish themselves. Are we going to do it again?"

Imagine if you were Alexander, 25, Johnson said, and you looked across the field at Toronto's double-play combination of Alex Gonzalez and Tomas Perez. "They've got a 22-year-old second baseman and a 23-year-old shortstop," Johnson said. "Manny's played against them in winter ball, and he was probably the Most Valuable Player and they weren't anything. Case closed."

Johnson said he and Alexander would be "the first to admit he hasn't taken care of himself like he should. But he's at every early workout.

"Under normal circumstances, he'd have probably started 10 games already [at short]. Under normal circumstances, on a normal team. With a normal shortstop. Heck, with a normal All-Star shortstop. But he's behind Cal Ripken."

What strange circumstances Alexander exists under, Johnson said, guessing what goes through Alexander's mind as he watches the team play. "If we're not going to have an opportunity to do something special this year," Johnson said, "he'll play. . . . He knows if we fall back, he'll play. That's about the only chance he's got. Isn't that a terrible situation?"

Alexander said yesterday that not playing "is very hard. Cal is playing good and I know that I'm not going to play, that I have no chance to play.

"And it would be very hard to say anything [bad] about a Hall of Fame shortstop. . . . The best thing might be a trade, and hopefully I can play someplace."

Alexander paused for several seconds when asked if he felt a part of the Orioles. "I'm here," he said. "I'm with the team now."

Pub Date: 7/02/96

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