Brother, do Alomars want to win Roberto, Sandy wish best for each other to a point

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Yankees-less letdown due?

October 08, 1997|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

It's Alomar vs. Alomar again, only this time, one brother is assured of going to the World Series.

Roberto Alomar got the upper hand last year, when the Orioles defeated the Cleveland Indians in the American League Division Series, ending Sandy's season. Tonight, they'll be in opposite dugouts for the start of the AL Championship Series at Camden Yards, a scenario that Roberto said neither brother relishes.

"This is one of the toughest things. One of us has to lose," he said. "If he wins, I'll feel happy for him, and if I win, he'll be happy for me. I wish Sandy the best, but I hope we win."

Family ties stretch only so far.

"Once we're on the field, it's all business. We do the best we can to play the game," he said.

"I know my mom will be cheering for both kids and will be real happy for whoever wins."

Roberto Alomar repeated yesterday that, because of a strained shoulder, there's "no chance" he'll hit right-handed, but he added that his groin and ankle injuries continue to improve. "I don't even think about it," he said.

A letdown?

With so many of the Orioles being geared for a rematch with the New York Yankees, do they need to guard against a possible letdown?

Manager Davey Johnson said he doesn't think so.

"Our focus from Day 1 in spring training was to get back here in the ALCS and win it and go on to the World Series," he said. "I think we all assumed it would be New York because they had the second-best record in the American League and they had played Cleveland very well over the last few years. But none of us were heartbroken to see the Yankees lose. None of us cried."

"We felt like we'd probably have to go through [the Yankees] again," said assistant general manager Kevin Malone, "but it didn't happen that way. We're focused now. I think we were ready to go against Cleveland or New York.

"I don't necessarily believe Cleveland is weaker. In fact, in some instances, I think they're stronger and they're going to be a tougher opponent. I think the only thing you miss about the Yankees is the rivalry."

Catcher Lenny Webster said it didn't matter whether the Orioles faced Cleveland or New York. Either way, they're expecting a tough series.

"We're not looking for anything less out of these guys," he said. "They're going to swing the bats. They've got good pitching. I think truly the series is going to come down to the bullpen, and of course we've got all the confidence in the world in our bullpen."

Time off is no pain

Webster said he believes the extra day's rest the Orioles received by wrapping up their Division Series earlier will be helpful.

"We had a few guys hurting a little bit," said Webster, one of them, with a tender elbow. "An extra day to rest sore muscles doesn't hurt."

On the flip side, Webster added: "If anything, the layoff might hurt us because we haven't played live in a couple days. It may take us a couple innings to get back on track."

Indians manager Mike Hargrove isn't bothered that his club had to play Monday. "The last two postseasons, we've had time off to prepare and get ready. In '95, we played real well. In '96, we didn't," he said.

"I, personally, kind of like it like this. We're here to play. We don't have a lot of time off to think about it. We know their ballclub, they know our ballclub, and we'll go at it."

Johnson saw Ripken roll

Cal Ripken carried a hefty slump into the postseason, going 18-for-110 in his last 32 games while questions remained about his back. But he rose to the occasion in the Division Series, leading the Orioles with a .438 average (7-for-16) and making some superb plays at third base.

Johnson said he saw it coming.

"You could kind of sense that he was getting ready to go on a tear," Johnson said. "Talking to him in Milwaukee, he was joking about wanting to get a hit on the last day and start feeling a little better and just help his confidence. But he was really feeling good at home plate. And if Cal says he's feeling pretty good, that's something you better believe."

Looking to turn tables

Cleveland went into last year's Division Series with the best record in the American League and as the favorite over the Orioles, making the Indians' fall that much harder. The roles appear to have been reversed this year.

"I hope that it all holds true then, with what happened last time," Hargrove said, smiling.

"I don't think we look at it like we have nothing to lose. We have everything to lose if we don't win. We feel very good about ourselves. We realize we beat a very good club in the Yankees. But that first step was not our goal. We haven't reached our goal yet. This club wants to win badly."

"Coming in, I don't think you can be loose at all," said Indians first baseman Jim Thome. "Baltimore's got a very good ballclub."

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