Orioles manager Davey Johnson is hoping to get Roberto Alomar into a game by the end of the week, but termed such a possibility "a long shot."
"He ran today and looked decent," said Johnson, who added that Alomar, out since the beginning of spring training with a sprained left ankle, won't go on the disabled list after serving his five-game suspension to open the season.
Johnson also said he doesn't think Alomar will need a rehabilitation assignment after his suspension.
"He's the kind of guy who doesn't need a whole lot," Johnson said. "He's a tremendous athlete who plays year-round. I'm more concerned about him having enough running in on his ankle, to where that's strong enough that there'd be less chance of reinjuring it. We won't rush him for that reason."
At second Surhoff?
B. J. Surhoff, who has played left field and third base this spring, has been taking ground balls at second. Could this mean he will see some time at that position, as well, especially during Alomar's five-game suspension?
"The proof will be in the pudding," said Johnson. "We'll see what happens. We've got to cover all contingencies. If we did happen to go with 13 pitchers, some guys may have to do some things they're not known for."
Johnson said he doesn't believe the uncertain contract status of players like Cal Ripken, Mike Mussina and Brady Anderson will become a distraction if it carries past Opening Day.
"Business is one thing, and playing baseball is another. I don't know of any player I've got here who lets it bother him," he said.
Johnson joked that he held out every year as a player. "I never had an agent, but it was money for me -- $500 more a year was big money for me. But I had to hold out two weeks to get it. These guys today seem to be able to turn their backs on millions. It's a big difference."
Braves get to Key
Jimmy Key's dominance of the Atlanta Braves this spring came to a nasty conclusion. In six innings, the veteran left-hander gave up six runs on 12 hits, including a three-run home run to journeyman Tommy Gregg, who was signed on Saturday, that cleared the right-field bleachers. Andruw Jones also hit a home run off Key in the fifth.
The first six Atlanta batters reached base in a four-run fourth inning before Mark Lemke bounced into a double play and Jones struck out.
Before yesterday, Key had beaten Atlanta twice this spring, allowing three hits and an earned run in five innings (1.80 ERA). But he was coming off his worst outing last Monday against the Boston Red Sox at Fort Myers, when he gave up eight hits and four runs (two earned) in five innings.
Key had allowed one earned run and eight hits in his first four starts before last Monday.
"I wasn't sharp. My ball wasn't moving today and you can't pitch against a team like this if you're not on top of your game," he said. "But I got up to my pitch count  and physically I feel fine. I'll take that out of it."
Key, who has one start remaining before Opening Day, had some close pitches go against him. "But if I'm on top of my game, I can get out of situations," he said.
He escaped being saddled with a loss yesterday when Mike Bordick's RBI single in the sixth inning tied the game at 6.
Chris Hoiles singled in the go-ahead run in the seventh, and Tony Tarasco followed with a two-run homer to right, his second this spring.
Bordick and Eric Davis were 2-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored. Ripken had two RBI doubles. Hoiles was 2-for-4 with two RBIs, and Anderson had two hits and scored a run.
Ramirez settles in
Right-hander Hector Ramirez, obtained from the New York Mets Saturday for infielders Manny Alexander and Scott McClain, spent part of the morning being introduced to his new teammates. His locker is next to scout Carlos Bernhardt, who has known Ramirez since he was 14.
"He's a good kid. He throws hard, good slider and cutter," Bernhardt said.
Around the horn
Bordick made another great play at shortstop yesterday, diving to his right to snare a liner from Chipper Jones in the first inning, then throwing to first base to almost double up Marquis Grissom. Grissom stole second with two outs and went to third on Hoiles' throwing error, but Key gloved a hard one-hopper up the middle by Fred McGriff to end the inning. The Orioles announced after Saturday's game they had optioned infielder Willis Otanez to Triple-A Rochester but decided yesterday to wait a few more days. Outfielder Scott Bullett injured his right ankle in the ninth inning while chasing a triple into the right-field corner by Ed Graffanino. Bullett was helped off the field.
Opponent: Los Angeles Dodgers
Site: Vero Beach, Fla.
Time: 1: 05 p.m.
I= Starters: Orioles' Scott Erickson vs. Dodgers' Hideo Nomo
Pub Date: 3/24/97