Alomar comeback is torrid hit Hobbled second baseman is in .615 swing with bat

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

September 17, 1997|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Roberto Alomar batted leadoff again in both games of yesterday's day-night doubleheader with Cleveland and also continued his torrid stretch of offense, collecting four hits and driving in four runs. The Orioles' second baseman has hit in eight straight games and is batting .615 (16-for-26) since returning to the lineup from a groin injury.

"I never thought I was going to be hitting the ball the way I am, especially being out for a month and a half," he said. "It's kind of tough to come back and get your swing back. It's been surprising for me. I was going through a tough time with my injuries, but I was practicing hard, too. Whenever they gave me the opportunity to go out there, I was trying to get ready. I think all that work has paid off.

"When you're in that zone, you feel it. Everything you hit is going to be hard. That's how I felt today. In the first game I got one hit, but hit it pretty good. The second game, I found the holes. That's how this game is."

It's been a different game this year for Alomar, who came off the disabled list Aug. 26. He's had to learn how to play with pain, something he was unaccustomed to before this season. He's also had to alter his style, being more cautious while still unable to run at full speed and cover as much ground at second base.

"It's not easy, especially when you're the type of player who wants to give your best out there, stealing bases and things like that," he said. "I cannot go out there and do the things I want to do. You have to learn how to play that way and play with pain. You have to be strong mentally and try to do your best. There's a lot of pain sometimes.

"Injury-wise, I'm 90-95 percent. It's not getting worse. It's getting a little better. You guys [reporters] have to realize I'm not 100 percent. I'm not going to get to balls that I used to get. I hope you guys don't start getting on me. The only way I can get healthy is by going out there and trying to get healthy. And I'm just trying to help the ballclub any way I can."

Manager Davey Johnson put Alomar atop the order in the second game of Monday's doubleheader, and he responded with two hits. Johnson's left-handed lineup in Game 1 yesterday had Alomar, B. J. Surhoff, Rafael Palmeiro and Brady Anderson at the top of the order.

"I like Alomar leading off," Johnson said. "He handles the bat and uses the whole field and walks. Brady's been great as far as his on-base percentage; he's been the best leadoff hitter in the league and the most dangerous. But with Alomar healthy, and B. J.'s the kind of guy who will take a guy deep in the count and uses the whole field. And with Raffy third and Brady behind him, I like that."

Davis plays nightcap

Eric Davis wasn't in the starting lineup for either game, but pinch-hit for Surhoff in the fifth inning of the nightcap and played right field, going 0-for-2. He hit the ball hard in the seventh, lining to deep center field.

"I've had good at-bats," he said. "I'm not jumping, I'm not feeling like I'm being overpowered. I'm real surprised after being off for 3 1/2 months. I feel real good."

Davis, who has a chemotherapy treatment scheduled today, approached Johnson in the dugout during the first inning and said he could give Surhoff a breather. "I felt like I was going to be able to play. It was just the right situation because B. J.'s been playing hard all year. He's a little tired, so I was happy to do that," Davis said.

Davis had played five innings of the opener of Monday's $H doubleheader, his first game since May 25. "I feel all right," he said. "I'm a little tired, a little sore, but that's how you feel in spring training. Nothing out of the ordinary."

Asked what Davis has to do to demonstrate he's ready to be included on the postseason roster, Johnson said, "Show me he can play nine innings. Show me he's ready to go. [Monday] was a great step in that direction."

Johnson added that he doesn't expect to have a final decision made on his roster for the division series -- most likely against Seattle -- until after the Orioles complete their final regular-season game in Milwaukee Sept. 28.

"There will be a plane leaving from Milwaukee going west, and there will probably be another one going east. Check who's on which plane. That'll give you a good idea," he said.

"It'll probably come down to that, too, believe me."

One down, like magic

The Orioles lowered their magic number yesterday before playing a game.

The club discovered that the number for clinching the AL East going into the doubleheader was eight, rather than nine, because of a tiebreaker with New York. If both teams have qualified for the postseason and finish with identical records, the Orioles would win the division because they took eight of 12 games against the Yankees during the season.

Around the horn

Cleveland's Manny Ramirez extended his hitting streak to a career-high 17 games with a fourth-inning single -- the first hit off Jimmy Key -- in Game 2 after an RBI double in the ninth inning of Game 1. Cal Ripken's double in Game 2 moved him past Joe Cronin into sole possession of 29th place on the all-time list with 516. The Orioles drew a crowd of 38,022 for Game 1, the fifth time they have attracted fewer than 40,000 this year.

Pub Date: 9/17/97

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