Shake-up only starts at third base Surhoff, Alexander, maybe catcher Devarez involved

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

July 16, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

Orioles manager Davey Johnson made other changes yesterday besides the move of Cal Ripken to third base and may have other changes in store. But as B. J. Surhoff, one of those affected by Ripken's switch, said before the game, he was just "a subplot."

Manny Alexander takes over at shortstop, a position he hadn't played since June 2. Alexander went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts last night, dropping his average to .150 in 40 at-bats.

"I'm excited," Alexander said before the game. "Today I came to the ballpark ready to play. I'll do whatever they want me to do. I just want to do the best I can to help the team."

Surhoff started at designated hitter last night, going 0-for-3, but after he gets a couple of days to adjust his throwing arm to the outfield, he'll likely start in left or right field, positions he played in the past. Surhoff started 50 games in left field for Milwaukee in 1995, one game in center field, and nine games in right field.

"It's not that hard [to switch]," Surhoff said. "It's not that big a deal for me."

Mark Smith, who has played intermittently since being called up from Triple-A Rochester, started Sunday and again last night -- homering for the Orioles' first run -- and Johnson said before the game he wanted to give Smith more playing time. But Smith's start may have been coincidental to the fact that the Orioles played two left-handers.

According to league sources, the Orioles are thinking about calling up strong-armed catcher Cesar Devarez from Triple-A Rochester to give him a chance to play every day. Devarez, 26, has been hitting close to .300 for the Red Wings, while splitting time with slugger B. J. Waszgis behind the plate. Chris Hoiles, the Orioles' No. 1 catcher, had the game-winning home run last night but is hitting .228, and club executives have attempted numerous times to acquire a catcher with a better throwing arm.

The Orioles also are exploring possible trade options that may or may not include dealing Bobby Bonilla and pitcher Kent Mercker, and acquiring Cleveland designated hitter Eddie Murray, who has fallen out of favor with the Indians.

Injury mystifies McDowell

The Orioles placed pitcher Roger McDowell on the 15-day disabled list yesterday, and activated utility infielder Jeff Huson in his place. McDowell is suffering from a muscle strain in the back of his right shoulder that doesn't hurt, but does prevent him from throwing a baseball properly. McDowell said he has "no earthly idea, whatsoever" when or how he was hurt.

"It doesn't hurt when I stand here talking to you," McDowell said, "or when I pick up a cup of coffee. But it hurts when I throw a baseball.

"The good thing is, it's not something that will linger -- unless I kept trying to throw."

Left-hander Arthur Rhodes also is suffering from a shoulder problem and may eventually join McDowell on the disabled list. But for now, Rhodes said, he's going to rest his shoulder "for a couple of days" and see if that helps.

If Rhodes is placed on the disabled list, the most likely candidate to be promoted in his place is right-hander Esteban Yan, who is with Triple-A Rochester.

Alomar sits out again

Second baseman Roberto Alomar missed his second straight start last night because of the left ring finger he sprained two days before the All-Star break. Alomar participated in the All-Star Game, something Johnson didn't want, and aggravated the injury playing in the field the first game of the New York Yankees series. He was the team DH in both games of Saturday's doubleheader, then sat out Sunday's game.

He said before last night's game his finger felt better, and he thought about asking Johnson to use him against the Blue Jays.

Bill Ripken is suffering from a hip pointer, but he has started the last four games at second.

Around the horn

Before last night, Cal Ripken's last appearance at third base occurred July 8, 1982, in Seattle. He started at shortstop that night and moved to third in the ninth inning, with Bob Bonner coming in at shortstop. . . . Lenn Sakata was the last Oriole to start at shortstop before Ripken's streak of 2,216 starts at short began. . . . Ripken also appeared at third base for two innings on July 1, 1982, the day Ripken's streak at shortstop began. . . . Toronto's Charlie O'Brien was hit by a pitch for the 13th time. The Blue Jays have been hit by 61 pitches this season, 19 short of the major-league record.

Cal at third

38 who tried

The Orioles' starters at third base beginning July 1, 1982, when Cal Ripken moved from third base to become the everyday shortstop:

Floyd Rayford, Rich Dauer, Glenn Gulliver, Leo Hernandez, Aurelio Rodriguez, Todd Cruz, Wayne Gross, Ron Jackson, Fritz Connally, Tom O'Malley, Gary Roenicke, Jackie Gutierrez.

Juan Bonilla, Juan Beniquez, Kelly Paris, Larry Sheets, Ricky Jones, Ray Knight, Rene Gonzales, Ron Washington, Pete Stanicek, Rick Schu, Wade Rowdon, Craig Worthington, Tim Hulett.

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