Bordick appears No. 1 choice at No. 2 in the batting order Johnson prefers righty, contact hitter for position

Orioles notebook

March 02, 1997|By Roch Eric Kubatko and Buster Olney | Roch Eric Kubatko and Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

VIERA, Fla. -- Orioles manager Davey Johnson would like to plug a right-handed hitter into the No. 2 spot in the batting order, behind Brady Anderson and ahead of Roberto Alomar and Rafael Palmeiro. It's a role Todd Zeile often filled last season before signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers as a free agent.

"You try not to make it real easy for opposing managers to go to their bullpen," Johnson said. "You want to make them think a little bit about it."

Johnson isn't thinking about batting Eric Davis second, since the preference is for a good contact hitter.

Mike Bordick, who batted .240 with the Oakland Athletics last season, is a better possibility, especially if Rick Down is right about the new shortstop's offensive potential.

"He's much better than that, much better," said Down, the Orioles' hitting coach. "He can be a guy who Davey would like to put the ball in play, situational hit, hit behind the runner. We'll also be able to hit-and-run with him. He could be a very good hitter with people on base. He was last year against us.

VTC "As long as he's swinging at strikes, he's got the potential to be as good as he wants to be. His swing is good, his mechanics are good. Just be patient. And with that lineup, they're going to have to pitch to somebody."

Bordick got his first hit of the spring in yesterday's 8-7 loss to the Florida Marlins at Space Coast Stadium, doubling down the left-field line in the sixth inning.

"I know how hard he plays and how much it means to him to get a base hit," Johnson said. "You don't want him overly pressing. He just wants to contribute, and he will."

And it doesn't matter to Bordick where he contributes in the lineup, though the idea of batting second intrigues him.

"I think it would be exciting to be up there in the top of order with those guys because, obviously, there are a lot of things happening," said Bordick, who's batted .258 in seven major-league seasons. "I have confidence in my hitting. It's a matter of putting things together. I've been working with Rick, and it seems like we have a pretty good relationship going."

Change of pace

Yesterday's starter, Rocky Coppinger, threw a slow curve to a couple of hitters, a pitch he didn't use last season.

"It's something that's on a test basis right now, a little change of pace," he said. "It's something for you to have if there's something else that's not going good during a game, something you can pull out. I'll build more confidence as the year goes on."

Coppinger gave up three hits in two innings and struck out one. The only run off him was unearned, when right fielder Tony Tarasco dropped a fly ball from Brian Daubach that scored Jeff Conine. Tarasco recovered to throw out Daubach at second.

That was the Orioles' third misplayed fly ball this spring.

Kid stuff

Infielder Kelly Gruber was supposed to be in the starting lineup yesterday, but received permission from Johnson to stay in Fort Lauderdale so he could spend time with his two young sons, who are visiting.

"It's the only time he'll get them this spring," Johnson said. "And nice guy that I am "

Heads up

Infielder Ryan Minor, a nonroster invitee, discovered one of the hazards of being 6 feet 7 and playing baseball.

Minor, a former All-America basketball player at Oklahoma, bumped his head on a cushioned portion of the concrete ceiling that sloped down on the narrow path leading from the visitors clubhouse to the dugout before yesterday's game. The blow didn't knock off his cap, but it sent teammate Matt Snyder, who was walking in front of him, into hysterics.

"Good thing it was padded," Minor said, smiling.

Crunch time

Marlins coach Tony Perez walked up to Tarasco yesterday, shook his hand and patted him on the stomach in greeting. When Perez walked away, Tarasco sighed with resignation.

"Scouts and coaches, they're all the same. They walk up to you and say hi and pat you on the stomach. What they're really doing is trying to find out if you're in shape. "When they come up to me, I'll do like this," said Tarasco, sucking in his gut.

Around the horn

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