Alexander taking bench status in stride Infielder is still an option at shortstop, Johnson says

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

July 25, 1996|By Jason LaCanfora | Jason LaCanfora,SUN STAFF

Manny Alexander has not played shortstop in four days and he's not complaining about it.

Alexander, who often voiced displeasure with his lack of playing time before replacing Cal Ripken at short for a few games last week, said he is not worried about his recent lack of starts.

"It's all right," Alexander said. "I just have to work every day to be ready to play shortstop when they need me. . . . I hope I'll be back in soon. I don't know anything. I want to show them what I can do."

Alexander has been taking extra batting practice recently to compensate for his lack of playing time. Alexander said he is still rusty at the plate, having had just 59 at-bats this year. He said he also will continue to take extra grounders to improve his fielding.

The 25-year-old native of the Dominican Republic said he has not sought any advice from Ripken about playing shortstop since the move, nor has Ripken offered any. Alexander said he does not often solicit information from other players.

"I don't like to talk a lot," Alexander said. "I haven't asked Cal anything. I don't talk about playing shortstop too much."

Manager Davey Johnson said Alexander is still very much an option at shortstop, but with the lineup completely healthy for the first time in a while, Johnson said he is going with Ripken at short.

"Manny still needs an opportunity to play. This ballclub is still playing under .500 since the first few weeks of the season and we're a veteran club. I need to see some of our younger players."

Rhodes' prospects improve

Reliever Arthur Rhodes was long-tossing yesterday and said he felt no pain. Rhodes, on the disabled list with soreness on the top of his left shoulder, is eligible to be activated Tuesday, and pitching coach Pat Dobson said that's a possibility.

Dobson said the left-hander will throw off a mound tomorrow and by Saturday or Sunday the team should know when he will be available.

"I felt fine out there," Rhodes said. "I'm just not going to air it out yet. I'm going to take my time. There wasn't any pain when I was tossing. Even on Friday, I'm not going to air it out."

Things are not progressing as smoothly with Roger McDowell. The right-handed reliever is on the DL with soreness in the back of his pitching shoulder and Dobson does not expect McDowell to be ready to come off the DL by Tuesday.

McDowell will long-toss tomorrow, and the Orioles plan to be careful with his arm after that.

Smith still on crutches

Outfielder Mark Smith was still on crutches yesterday after fouling a ball off his left shin Monday. Smith has a deep bone bruise on his leg and hopes to be back by the weekend. Smith said he has to get his leg muscles loose. A bone scan came up negative and Smith said he can walk somewhat but still has muscle pain.

Stephenson eager for call-up

Rochester Red Wings right-hander Garrett Stephenson is hoping to get a call to the majors soon. Stephenson, a Maryland native, is the only Red Wings starter to remain in the rotation all year.

"Of course I'm ready," Stephenson said. "It's taken me a little time, but after three months in Triple-A I think I'm ready."

Hammonds' hitting picks up

Stephenson isn't the only Red Wing catching Johnson's attention. Jeffrey Hammonds has raised his average to .247, with three homers and 17 RBIs. Hammonds has nine RBIs in his past three games, including a three-run homer Tuesday, and he's hitting .321 (18-for-56) in his past 16 games. He's also 3-for-4 in stolen-base attempts.

Johnson said he has been particularly impressed with Hammonds' selectiveness at the plate.

"He's coming," Johnson said. "[A call-up] is a possibility. . . . That was expected, to put him down there and get him squared away."

Ripken charity success

Before the game, Cal Ripken met one of the success stories of the Reading, Runs and Ripken literacy program. Ripken and Valerie Sullivan, 27, who has learned reading and math since enrolling in the Ripken Learning Center in February, praised the program, which has raised $15,000 this season from pledges based on the shortstop's RBIs.

"We've had great success with this program," Ripken said. "We'd like to see more people like Valerie that can have a new beginning and improve her life."

Around the horn

Brady Anderson said his possible appendicitis was not aggravated by playing Tuesday. . . . Gregg Zaun said he has decided to play winter ball in Puerto Rico. . . . Rochester starter Brian Sackinsky is 2-0 since coming off the DL. He has pitched five innings in both starts. . . . Ryan Hendricks, son of bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks, underwent successful surgery at Children's Hospital to repair a ruptured disk. Hendricks, who plays for the Orioles' Single-A affiliate in High Desert, Calif., expects to begin therapy after leaving the hospital in a couple of days.

Pub Date: 7/25/96

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