Hammonds, Alexander may win spots with O's Strong spring showings slow trade speculation

March 15, 1997|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds and infielder Manny Alexander may not be on their way out of town after all. General manager Pat Gillick said yesterday that both could start the season on the major-league roster.

Both players have been prominent in the club's trade talks throughout the winter, but their strong performances during the first two weeks of the exhibition season have left club officials unwilling to move them just to create space on a crowded roster.

Gillick insists Alexander will remain with the major-league club if it becomes apparent that other teams are waiting for him to be waived at the end of spring training. Alexander is out of options, so he has to remain at the major-league level or be offered to other major-league clubs for the waiver price of $50,000.

The Orioles still hope to package Alexander in a deal for prospects or pitching help, but the club may eventually decide to keep Hammonds, who got off to a great start this spring and is trying to play his way back into the starting lineup.

Manager Davey Johnson said earlier this spring that he would rather see Hammonds establish himself as a star-quality player here than watch him bloom somewhere else. Gillick added yesterday that he felt Hammonds probably would be on the Orioles' 25-man roster on Opening Day.

"He's just got to carry that into the season," Gillick said. "He has to carry it over."

Of course, his status depends on the way the roster is configured. The more pitchers that Johnson takes north, the less chance that Hammonds will be with the club, but the early push to trade him has given way to concern about the durability of newly acquired reserve outfielder Jerome Walton.

The Orioles hope that Walton can give them some pop and some speed off the bench, but he missed a week with a strained abdominal muscle earlier this spring and has yet to make his presence felt in the competition for the extra outfield spots. Hammonds also has a spotty medical history, but he played winter ball during the off-season and came to camp in excellent shape.

Johnson just wants to keep all his options open.

"If we can make a major move and help ourselves, yeah, we might do that," he said, "but I believe in buying low and selling high. If you trade Jeffrey now, you're going to be selling low."

Hammonds still has a lot to prove. He must convince the club that his performance this spring will translate into success during the regular season, something that didn't happen after he turned in a solid spring a year ago.

Pub Date: 3/15/97

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