Order may switch with Alomar Ability to bat right-handed again has Miller mulling moving Davis to No. 2

Orioles notebook

March 17, 1998|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- With Roberto Alomar able to swing again from the right side, Orioles manager Ray Miller said yesterday he's more inclined to drop the infielder to third in the batting order and elevate Eric Davis to second.

The moves aren't written in stone, or on any lineup card. Miller is just considering the possibility, and it probably would come mainly against a less-than-overpowering right-handed pitcher.

Miller said Alomar will hit mostly in his customary No. 2 spot at the start of the season, but added it shouldn't be assumed he would get the majority of his at-bats there over the entire year.

"It's hard to say because you've got to find who's going good, who isn't, who's hitting, who isn't, are we scoring runs, or are we not?" Miller said. "Obviously, I want what speed we have up front as close as I can get it. What's kind of interesting is, even though [Davis] isn't a prototypical second hitter, neither is our leadoff guy [Brady Anderson]. He's not a prototypical leadoff hitter.

"I visualize a lot of things pitching-wise. What I try to think is, 'OK, this guy's at the plate, the count's 3-1 and the pitcher looks on deck.' If Eric's hitting second, you've got a medium-speed pitcher out and I see him look on the on-deck circle and go, 'Oh boy, I better go get Eric Davis.' I like that."

Before last night's 10-4 victory over the Florida Marlins, Alomar was 6-for-9 batting right-handed this spring. He was restricted to hitting left-handed after May 31 last season because of a shoulder injury that required off-season surgery.

Now that's he's back to switch-hitting, "it opens up a lot of things," Miller said.

Alomar batted second last night and Davis hit third. Davis is batting .467 (14-for-30) with four homers and 15 RBIs. Alomar went 1-for-3 to keep his average at .333 (12-for-36) with five RBIs.

The Orioles' spring training roster grew lighter by six players yesterday. Three were optioned to the minors before the game, and three others were told they were being reassigned afterward.

Right-hander Sidney Ponson, who the previous day had thrown two more shutout innings, was optioned to Triple-A Rochester, and right-hander Chris Fussell and outfielder Wady Almonte were sent to Double-A Bowie. Infielders Mitch Simons and Willis Otanez and outfielder Miguel Mejia were reassigned after being available for the game.

The moves leave the Orioles with 38 players on their spring roster.

Ponson allowed one hit and struck out two after relieving starter Mike Mussina during Sunday's 5-2 win over the New York Mets at Port St. Lucie.

Coming off tendinitis in his right elbow and a two-week stay at Duke University's Diet and Fitness Center, Ponson allowed two runs in 7 1/3 innings and appears to have regained the momentum that made him one of the club's top prospects.

Miller gave Ponson a strong endorsement, saying he would consider the right-hander if the club sustained a major injury in the rotation or bullpen.

"He's got a ways to go, but I don't think it takes a genius to say, 'Boy, that's a pretty good arm.' He threw the heck out of the ball. He's got a good changeup and a good breaking ball, he's getting his weight down. He's on a mission," Miller said.

"I told him, 'If there was ever a chance in your life to put up numbers, this is it.' Again, all six guys I sent out, I challenged them to walk through that door next year. I want [their statistics] in their hands. I want them to kick the door open and say, 'This is what I did. Now play me.'

"I think that's the way this game should be. We should stop babying people. If a guy's heavy, lose weight. If a guy needs to work on his fielding, work on your fielding. If a guy needs to drive in runs, drive in runs. Come in here, say 'I did it,' and let's go. If you get back to that, you don't have to spend on the free-agent market so much because you've got people coming in who have done what it takes to be a big-league ballplayer."

Almonte, who had one hit in 10 at-bats, said he benefited from the time in camp, even if the numbers didn't reflect it.

"Now I know what baseball is all about. Now, I'm ready to go to the minor leagues, do good and come back here. I feel more prepared than last year," he said.

Sheffield makes debut

Marlins outfielder Gary Sheffield played in his first game this spring, batting third and serving as the designated hitter. He went 0-for-3 and didn't get a ball out of the infield.

Sheffield, in the first year of a six-year, $61 million contract, caused a stir in the Marlins' camp by reporting late and claiming he had stress fractures in his back. The pain, instead, was caused by narrowing of the spinal column.

Sheffield said yesterday that, barring a major setback, he expects to be ready Opening Day. He also repeated that he would be less inclined to play hurt this year after making so many sacrifices last season.

Around the horn

Miller said he wanted to give catcher Chris Hoiles some time at first base last night and brought him in to relieve Rafael Palmeiro in the fifth inning. Hoiles made four appearances there last year, including three starts. He also wants Hoiles to catch reliever Norm Charlton. Miller will play Joe Carter less in the outfield now that B. J. Surhoff has returned. Carter will see most of his time at first base and as the designated hitter. Only seven of the Orioles' 22 errors before last night were made by players who will be on the Opening Day roster. That trend continued last night with Ryan Minor making the only Orioles error. Jimmy Key (1-0, 2.70 ERA) will oppose Florida left-hander Felix Heredia today. The Orioles will have their only off day tomorrow. Florida manager Jim Leyland said Craig Counsell will be his starting second baseman on Opening Day. Luis Castillo probably will end up in Triple-A.

Pub Date: 3/17/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.