Alomar passes early test, takes star turn Oriole shakes off injury to finger, plays 5 1/2 innings

July 10, 1996|By Jason LaCanfora | Jason LaCanfora,SUN STAFF

PHILADELPHIA -- It all came down to batting practice.

A couple of licks at fat pitches and a few grounders would dictate Roberto Alomar's All-Star Game fate.

Alomar wrapped and unwrapped the tape on his sprained left ring finger and said he would have to test his injury in batting practice before clearing himself to play last night.

He was splendid in the batting cage, knocking a few opposite-field home runs. In the field he was awkward, dropping a couple of grounders before finally calling it quits.

Perhaps he was saving something for the game.

Alomar played, despite the possibility that aggravating the injury could hinder a quick return for an important series with the first-place New York Yankees, beginning tomorrow at Camden Yards.

The game came to him in the first inning. He drove a ball to center field in his first at-bat. He caught a relay throw in the bottom of the inning and applied a late tag on Lance Johnson. Alomar also cleanly fielded a grounder for a first-inning putout.

"I'm not worrying at all about getting hurt or aggravating the injury. I'll worry about that [tomorrow]," Alomar said before the game. "I know what I have to do. If I can't go, I'm not going to. It's going to be your own decision. I don't want to go out there and embarrass myself. I want to play again. I love to play."

He finished 1-for-3 with an infield single, but did nothing to damage his reputation as one of the game's elite players. He played 5 1/2 innings, longer than some of the other starters.

"I didn't think I'd be able to hold the bat both ways, right-handed especially, but it was fine," Alomar said afterward. "Fielding was great. It felt pretty good. I was really surprised. I think I'm ready to play."

Alomar injured the finger while diving headfirst into first base in the first inning on Saturday. He left the game and did not participate in Monday's All-Star workout. Instead, he stayed back in Baltimore, getting treatment for the finger.

He alternated putting hot and cold water on the finger to decrease the swelling and massaged the joint of the ring finger of his left hand.

The treatment must have worked. Alomar said he could not even bend the finger on Monday, but by yesterday he could clench his fist and squeeze.

His decision to play reflects his attitude on the field: Go hard or don't go at all.

"I've been diving for eight years," Alomar said.

"I'm not going to change. A lot of people don't like it. I cannot change what's worked for me for so many years. I'm going to continue to do it. I'm not afraid of getting hurt."

Manager Davey Johnson is one of the people not in favor of the headfirst dive. Johnson was vocal in his disapproval of the tactic following Saturday's game.

"I hate it," Johnson said. "That's what happens when you dive . . . You can't tell me that [diving headfirst] is faster than sliding."

Alomar said Johnson did not confront him after injuring his finger. Rather, Johnson was just concerned about Alomar's health.

"I have [dived headfirst] maybe 15 times this year," Alomar said. "One time I got hurt. Now, some people are complaining. Why didn't they complain when I dove before. I've done it and I will continue to do it. Nothing is going to change me."

Pub Date: 7/10/96

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