Alomar decides time right to give shoulder swing from that side Second baseman to face lefty today

Oriole Notebook

Key is better

infielder Forbes impresses

March 08, 1998|By Joe Strauss and Roch Kubatko | Joe Strauss and Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

JUPITER, Fla. -- Orioles second baseman Roberto Alomar is scheduled to reach a significant milepost today in his rehabilitation from November shoulder surgery when he bats right-handed against Boston Red Sox left-hander Butch Henry.

Manager Ray Miller approached Alomar about the possibility before yesterday's 8-5 exhibition win over the Montreal Expos. Alomar, who had asked for more time when Miller previously asked, readily accepted this time.

Asked whether today's step represents an end to his four-month rehabilitation from surgery to reattach the labrum to his left shoulder, Alomar waved off any such presumption.

"I'm not saying I'm all the way back. No one else should," he said. "I still have to take it one step at a time. This is one step. That's all. Hopefully, this goes well then we take another step."

Alomar contributed a single in four at-bats yesterday, leaving him 3-for-15 (.200) in six exhibition games. He added a dazzling defensive play to end the fifth inning by ranging behind second base and flipping the ball with his glove to shortstop Ozzie Guillen.

Reluctant to declare his left shoulder completely fit, Alomar insists he is fully recovered from a severe groin pull that hampered him during the latter stages of last season.

As recently as last weekend Alomar refused to project when he would bat right-handed. Alomar did not swing a bat right-handed during the off-season and limited himself to hitting off a tee for the first week of camp. He has since graduated to underhand soft toss and last week began taking right-handed batting practice. However, he has yet to swing right-handed with maximum effort.

"Everything is going good. They're going in the right direction," said Alomar, who hasn't batted right-handed in a game since last May 31. "When I hit in batting practice everything felt good. That's all you can ask."

Pushing in the clutch

Nestled within the clutter of future Hall of Famers, proven veterans and hot young prospects that make up the Orioles' camp is a 30-year-old career minor-league infielder with a knack for producing in the clutch.

P. J. Forbes again was in the middle of something good yesterday, bringing in the go-ahead run in the ninth inning with a ground-rule double to left field. He scored on a double by Ryan Minor as part of a four-run rally that gave the Orioles their 8-5 comeback victory over the Montreal Expos.

The Orioles strung together five straight hits to open the inning. Forbes, batting with runners on first and second and the score 5-5, was told by Miller not to bunt, which would have left first base open and probably led Expos manager Felipe Alou to walk Minor. Instead, he lifted a fly ball off former Oriole Anthony Telford that kept carrying until it landed on the warning track and cleared the fence on one hop.

"With the infielders moving, you'd like to hit a ground ball. I put a little more wood on it than I thought," said Forbes, who's batting .429 (3-for-7) with two RBIs in six games. "I was hoping the wind would pick up a little. There wasn't quite enough."

Forbes, who hit .272 at Triple-A Rochester last year after spending seven years in Anaheim's system, has been impressive, exhibiting decent range, a good arm and a passion for getting his uniform dirty.

"There's a little guy who can play the game," Miller said of Forbes, who's 5 feet 10. "I had a talk with him several days ago. I said, 'You know, a lot of times people think you're a veteran minor-league player because you're 30 years old, and you don't think of yourself as a prospect. But the truth of the matter is, you can get to the big leagues on a good club a lot easier than you can on a bad club.' "

Forbes knows if Miller decides to keep two utility infielders, he'll have to wait behind Guillen and Jeff Reboulet. But he could become this year's Aaron Ledesma, who was a valuable addition from Rochester last season before being lost in the expansion draft.

Key feeling stronger

Left-hander Jimmy Key was much sharper in his second spring outing, allowing one run and four hits over four innings. He stranded two runners in the first inning, and retired eight in a row before Rondell White homered off the roof of the Expos' clubhouse beyond the left-field fence.

Key had gone three innings in his first start, giving up two runs and four hits. Yesterday, he looked fresher after throwing 56 pitches.

"I felt strong coming out of the game," he said. "My legs are in pretty good shape. My arm wasn't tired. I didn't feel like it was dropping or anything. Overall, it wasn't bad. I kept the ball down for the most part."

Key said, depending on how many pitches he throws his next start, he may go to the bullpen afterward and throw 10 to 15 more fastballs to continue building arm strength.

Johns gives up lead

Left-hander Doug Johns turned in his first poor outing of the spring, giving up three runs in the seventh inning to wipe out a 4-2 lead.

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