Cold reality alters lineup yet again Alomar a late addition, but Davis, Hammonds sit

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

April 18, 1997|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

CHICAGO -- Manager Davey Johnson looked at the thermometer, shrugged and decided to winter-proof his lineup for a second straight day. Protecting two position players nursing nagging injuries while exposing a third, Johnson sat right fielder Eric Davis and center fielder Jeffrey Hammonds. However, he reversed himself and started Roberto Alomar at second base over Jeff Reboulet. The move paid off when Alomar, running through Sam Perlozzo's stop sign at third base, scored the game's only run.

"You've got to worry about protecting your players, you know," said Johnson.

Alomar had been the larger question. Unable to get loose in cold weather, he was questionable for this weekend's series in Boston.

"It's a matter of time. Right now, I can't get loose. No matter what, I can't get loose. You just have to be smart," Alomar said three hours before the game.

Alomar then retreated to the trainer's room, where he received intense treatment from trainer Richie Bancells.

Allowing that all three would probably play in warmer conditions, Johnson says there is little to be gained and much more than a game to be lost by risking an All-Star second baseman and two other players essential to the club's 9-3 start. However, he found it difficult to hold his tongue regarding the brutal conditions that have consistently confronted his team.

"If it were my money, I'd be concerned. You can't keep spreading it out because this game wasn't meant to be played in freezing weather. It's a skill sport. Hitting a baseball is tough enough without your eyes watering and snowflakes everywhere," said. "I guess they need all the games. But somewhere, sometime we need to go back. We used to start on the fifth or sixth. Now, I don't know."

Davis injured his left shoulder attempting to make a sliding catch Tuesday. He underwent a magnetic resonance imaging exam and an X-ray of the area, but the results showed nothing more severe than a deep bruise. Still, the condition has affected the right fielder's range of motion, necessitating Pete Incaviglia play in his place. Incaviglia suffered through a troublesome night Wednesday. He dropped one ball and another got past him for a first-inning, three-run triple. Johnson conceded the ball might have been caught by Davis.

One of several players bothered by a slight groin pull, Hammonds lobbied Johnson to play, but his request was denied. Jerome Walton received a second straight start in his place and went 4-for-4, raising his batting average to .389.

Blame it on the White Sox

Perhaps a greater power is cursing them for their signing of Albert Belle. The White Sox have played 14 games, 12 outdoors. Of those 12 games, last night was the seventh where the game-time temperature was 43 degrees or lower, with the low coming April 9 vs. Toronto. Snow has fallen during three of the White Sox's games, which must create some weird advantage for them. They entered last night 1-9 when it doesn't snow, 3-0 when it does.

The Orioles, meanwhile, are less comfortable in this climate. They've split two games in the snow. Rafael Palmeiro took batting practice yesterday while wearing a stocking cap over his baseball cap. Several pitchers wore four layers of clothing. During Wednesday's eighth inning, a bullpen heater overheated, billowing smoke. The device was shut down briefly to avoid a fire code violation but was later restarted.

Players thought Wednesday night's conditions more brutal than those during an April 9 snowstorm in Kansas City. Last night was tougher than Wednesday.

"It goes right through you out there," said Walton. "You can't get warm. There's nowhere to hide."

M. Johnson bides him time

The major-league mystery tour continues for 21-year-old Mike Johnson, the Orioles' 12th pitcher held hostage by the vagaries of the Rule 5 draft.

Johnson has appeared once this season but cannot be shipped to the minors. If the Orioles were to attempt such a move, the Blue Jays could reclaim him for $25,000. The Orioles have inquired about a possible trade, but the Blue Jays have rebuffed all their efforts. For now, Johnson throws every third day in the bullpen and waits for the opportunity that might take weeks to come.

"It's a little different here. At this level, you're not fighting for a job. You're up here to win," Johnson said. "Down in the minor leagues, you're trying to work your way up a level. You play to win, too, but you're concerned about where you stand."

Johnson probably would have been shipped to Single-A Dunedin had he remained with the Blue Jays. Instead, he is making the $150,000 major-league minimum. For now, he is content slipping out the Camden Yards tunnel and walking unnoticed through lines of fans. Most mistake him for a bat boy.

"You don't wish for it to happen, but if a couple guys go down I'm someone they could turn to," said Johnson, whose only appearance came in Texas on April 6. "Right now, my role is to save the bullpen."

Around the horn

Last night's shutout gave the Orioles two this season. That's already one more than they had all of last year. Tony Tarasco might have been peeved over his demotion to Triple-A Rochester, but the outfielder hasn't carried his displeasure onto the field. He went 3-for-5 on Wednesday with two home runs and five RBIs against Syracuse. In his first five games with the Red Wings, Tarasco was hitting .353 with a .706 slugging percentage. Jimmy Haynes is 1-0 with a 3.63 ERA after three starts. In 17 1/3 innings, Haynes has allowed 11 hits, struck out 20 and walked seven.

PTC Pub Date: 4/18/97

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