O's get pitcher, send 2 to Mets Alexander, McClain dealt for minor-league reliever Ramirez

March 23, 1997|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,SUN STAFF

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Manny Alexander and Scott McClain && were penciled into the Orioles' starting lineup for yesterday's game against the New York Mets, then were scratched. They were going to make up the left side of the infield, but ended up making the trip back to Fort Lauderdale together.

Shortly after arriving at St. Lucie County Stadium, Alexander and McClain were told by manager Davey Johnson that they had been traded to the Mets. The Orioles received right-handed reliever Hector Ramirez, who will report to their major-league camp today.

Alexander and McClain rode back to the Orioles' complex and packed their belongings. The two infielders will join their new team today in West Palm Beach.

"Manny's style of play is more National League, anyway -- steal a base, whatever," Johnson said. "You've almost got to be an All-Star now to break into this infield. Hopefully, he'll get more of an opportunity to express his talents. I wish him well.

"The same with Scotty McClain. I hated to lose Scotty, too. If somebody went down in our infield, he probably would have been the first call-up."

Rumors of a trade involving Alexander, 26, began before spring training. He performed well in the Dominican Winter League, then swung a hot bat in exhibition games, hitting .353 with two home runs and 10 RBIs and playing a steady shortstop and second base.

The more he was in the lineup, the more his value increased. And with the Orioles signing shortstop Mike Bordick to a three-year contract in December and moving Cal Ripken to third, plus the arrival of utility players Jeff Reboulet and Kelly Gruber, it seemed only a matter of time before a deal was struck.

The Mets' interest stemmed from concern over their young shortstop, Rey Ordonez, who has been told not to cut loose with his throws because of a sore right shoulder. If Alexander is not needed as a starter, he gives the Mets a utility player with more tools than the others on the roster.

Either way, he'll get more playing time with the Mets. There will be more pinch-hitting opportunities, double switches and serving a late-inning defensive replacement for second baseman Carlos Baerga, whose shortcomings in the field contributed to his trade from the Cleveland Indians last season.

"I had made him a promise that if he wasn't going to be the regular shortstop, we'd try to trade him to a spot where he'd play," Johnson said. "We had tried to move him to some other places where we felt like he'd get the chance to be the everyday shortstop, but other people didn't feel as strongly, and things fell through."

Kevin Malone, the Orioles' assistant general manager, said interest in Alexander this spring was mild. "There were a lot of questions about his makeup because a lot of people hadn't seen him," he said.

The Texas Rangers reportedly had the best deal on the table, but pulled it off yesterday morning. The Atlanta Braves also were talking to the Orioles about Alexander.

"I'm excited," Alexander said. "I'll have more chances to play. I worked hard in winter ball because I knew I'd have to have a good spring training in case somebody was looking at me. This would be my last shot. I played hard and waited for something to happen."

Once regarded as the top prospect in the organization, Alexander was given six consecutive starts at shortstop last July and responded with one hit and nine strikeouts in 18 at-bats. For the year, he was 7-for-68 (.103) and didn't have an RBI after June 11.

"After you sit on the bench for five months, six games is not enough to show what you can do," he said. "No matter how long you take batting practice, you've got to play in the games. BP and games are different."

McClain, 24, had remained in the major-league camp even though he was outrighted to Rochester, where he spent all of last season and batted .281 with 17 homers and 69 RBIs. He

most likely will be sent to Triple-A Norfolk.

"I guess I'm kind of excited. Hopefully, I'll get an opportunity there. As you know, it's kind of a dead-end situation over here with the Orioles," he said.

"It's always nice to be wanted."

Ramirez, who pitched two innings against the Orioles on Friday night, allowing two runs on three hits and walking two, will begin the season at Triple-A Rochester. He spent most of last season at Double-A Binghamton, going 1-5 with six saves and a 5.14 ERA, and wasn't expected to make the Mets' 25-man roster, though the club had a need for relief pitching.

"He's got a good arm," Malone said. "He has a chance to be a closer someday. He just needs some work. He's still developing. But he could be a quality bullpen guy."

Ramirez, 25, had spent his entire pro career with the Mets.

"It was a big surprise to me," said Ramirez, who has allowed three earned runs in eight innings this spring. "I see I had a chance to make the team here, and then they trade me."

Alexander hasn't seen the last of Camden Yards. The first year of interleague play will bring the Mets to Baltimore on Aug. 29-31.

"I'm going to try to be the hero in those three games," he said.

Ramirez's stats

The career statistics for Hector Ramirez, whom the Orioles acquired yesterday from the Mets:

Yr, Team, W-L, ERA, G, IP, BB, K

Mets (R), 0-5, 4.50, 15, 42.0, 24, 14

1990, Mets (R), 3-5, 4.26, 11, 50.2, 21, 43

1991, Kingsport (R), 8-2, 2.65, 14, 85.0, 28, 64

1992, Columbia (A), 5.4, 3.61, 17, 94.2, 33, 53

1993, Mets (R), 1-0, 0.00, 1, 7.0, 1, 6

Columbia (A), 4-6, 5.34, 14, 64.0, 23, 42

St. Lucie (A), 11-12, 3.43, 27, 194.0, 50, 110

1995, Binghamton (AA), 4-12, 4.60, 20, 123.1, 48 63

1996, Binghamton (AA), 1-5, 5.14, 38, 56.0, 23, 49

Norfolk (AAA), 1-0, 3.38, 3, 10.2, 3, 8

Pub Date: 3/23/97

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