Walton makes healthy contact Incaviglia's ribs OK, but hamstring hurting

Orioles notebook

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

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Jerome Walton removed any doubts about his health yesterday. Starting at first base, he singled twice and knocked in two runs in the Orioles' 7-3 victory over the New York Mets.

Both hits came off former Orioles right-hander Pete Harnisch. And they were proof that Walton, making his first start since March 11, has recovered from a strained abdominal muscle.

He also went from first to third on a single up the middle by Pete Incaviglia, diving into the bag to beat the throw.

"I came up all right. I didn't feel anything. That was a good test," said Walton, part of the Orioles' crowded outfield picture.

"I'm just trying to stay healthy, and everything else will take care of itself. I feel like I'm all the way back, if I don't have any setbacks."

Incaviglia's return from a rib-cage strain looked just as promising when he singled in the first inning and unloaded a towering three-run homer to left in the second. But he suffered what is believed to be a mild strain of his left hamstring while grounding out in the fourth, again leaving his status uncertain.

Incaviglia, making his first appearance since March 15, said he felt a pinch in the back of his leg and pulled up.

"It knotted up on me. I've never pulled a hamstring," he said.

"It's frustrating. Hopefully, I'll get it right before the season comes. I'm not really concerned about it. I've had ample at-bats down here. As long as it's right before the season starts, that's all I'm really concerned with."

Head trainer Richie Bancells will check on Incaviglia's condition today to determine how long he will be out. "We'll see if it's a slight strain, or maybe it was a cramp or a spasm," Incaviglia said. "From what other players tell me, I don't think it's a major pull or anything. Hopefully, in three or four days I'll be ready to play."

Manager Davey Johnson didn't seem that worried, either. "I don't think it's too bad, but you never know until [today]," he said.

Alomar limping

Second baseman Roberto Alomar took batting practice at Fort Lauderdale Stadium and fielded grounders, but was limping noticeably, raising speculation he might not play in any exhibition games.

"There's always that chance," Johnson said. "I think he's going to be all right, but I think he's better off not rushing back and having setbacks. We're just being overly cautious. He's probably real close to being over the danger area, but we want to make sure. If he just gets two games, or just some at-bats in batting practice. He plays year-round. I don't see why he needs a whole lot. He needs the least amount of time of anybody I know."

Alomar said: "I still have a long way to go," but added, "If it keeps getting better the way I think it is, I'll be ready for whenever I have to be up there in the regular season."

Otanez, Waszgis to Triple-A

The Orioles made two more cuts after yesterday's game, optioning infielder Willis Otanez and catcher B. J. Waszgis to Triple-A Rochester. That leaves 35 players in the major-league camp.

Otanez started at third base after Scott McClain's trade to the Mets. Waszgis didn't make the trip to Port St. Lucie.

Daulton a long shot

Assistant general manager Kevin Malone said discussions are continuing over a possible trade with the Philadelphia Phillies for Darren Daulton, a former catcher who is trying to make a comeback after a series of knee operations stalled his career. But the deal remains a long shot.

"It's being evaluated. It's something we're looking at, considering," he said.

Malone said there are "major concerns" over Daulton's $5 million salary and a $500,000 buyout.

Gruber getting hot

One of the Orioles' hottest hitters is the same player who began the spring 0-for-16.

Infielder Kelly Gruber drove in his sixth run with a first-inning single, which made him 7-for-14 since the dry spell. He didn't get a hit in his next four trips to the plate, but is swinging the bat much better.

Gruber, who hasn't played in the majors since 1993, is fighting for what could be the lone utility job. His competition, Jeff Reboulet, went 3-for-4 with a run scored and raised his average ** to .317.

Mussina bunts for hit

Gruber and Reboulet have nothing on pitcher Mike Mussina, who laid down a bunt single in the second inning, making him 2-for-2 in exhibition games. The ball looked as though it would roll foul, but hugged the third base line.

"It was just lucky," he said.

In his previous at-bat this spring, Mussina lined a single to right off Montreal Expos ace Pedro Martinez.

Mussina grounded out to second base in his final trip, leaving him 2-for-3 this spring.

Mussina said running the bases scares him more than batting. "If could just stand up there and get a hit once in a while, bunt them over, that would be fine with me," he said.

Orioles today

Opponent: Atlanta Braves

Site: Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Time: 1: 05 p.m.

Radio: WBAL (1090 AM), WTOP (1500 AM)

Starters: Braves' Greg Maddux vs. Orioles' Jimmy Key

Pub Date: 3/23/97

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