Hitless Alomar is just glad to get going Second baseman booed in first action of spring

March 28, 1997|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,SUN STAFF

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Roberto Alomar finally got into full swing yesterday, starting at second base and batting leadoff against the Montreal Expos. It was his first appearance in an exhibition game after suffering a badly sprained left ankle last month at his home in Puerto Rico.

Facing right-hander Jim Bullinger in the first inning, Alomar took a strike on the outside corner, then popped up to shallow center field, with Expos shortstop Andy Stankiewicz running down the ball and falling backward.

He came up again with two outs in the third inning and bounced a 1-1 pitch up the middle. Second baseman Mike Lansing fielded the ball behind the bag and threw out Alomar by a step.

That ended Alomar's spring debut. He was replaced at second by Kelly Gruber and walked to the clubhouse, where he received treatment on the ankle for about 30 minutes.

Each time Alomar was introduced, he drew a mixture of boos and cheers from the crowd. He likely will continue to draw derision from fans who recall his spitting on umpire John Hirschbeck late last season.

Yesterday hardly qualified as vintage Alomar. Two hitless at-bats and no plays in the field.

But at least it was a beginning.

"I felt good. I didn't have any pain. I felt happy to be out there with the guys," he said. "I didn't worry. Sometimes you worry too much, and that's not good. I didn't expect to be 100 percent."

Alomar, who hadn't played since Feb. 9 in Mexico, was disappointed he didn't have a ball hit to him. Ironically, the first Expos batter after Alomar left the game bounced to Gruber. "Tomorrow's another day. I can't do everything in one day," he said.

His two trips to the plate were more productive than it appeared. "I didn't strike out. I made contact. I didn't expect to get a hit. It was more to go out and test myself," he said.

Manager Davey Johnson probably will pinch-hit Alomar in today's game against the Expos at West Palm Beach and give him another start tomorrow at Fort Lauderdale Stadium.

"It was good just to get him out there," he said.

Johnson also said it's "in debate" whether Alomar will accompany the team north after Saturday's game or report to the minor-league complex in Sarasota for additional workouts. If Alomar is in Baltimore, he probably would play in Sunday's exhibition game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Camden Yards, though he wouldn't start. Johnson wants to use his Opening Day lineup, with Jeff Reboulet at second.

"I'm really not that concerned about him playing," Johnson said. "He looks good. He looks like he was right on everything."

Once his five-game suspension is complete, Alomar will be back at second base, and questions about his health should begin to subside.

And not a moment too soon.

"Every day, it's 'How are you feeling?' I've never been asked that so many times," he said.

Pub Date: 3/28/97

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