Miller sees Minor's potential at shortstop Manager suggests moving third baseman during minor-league assignment

Orioles notebook

March 18, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The spring fling with Ryan Minor grows.

Manager Ray Miller speculated yesterday that the Orioles' highly regarded prospect might be better served moving from third base to shortstop. He says he has approached several members of the front office about the possibility.

"It makes sense to me," says Miller, who already has lobbied for Minor, 24, to bypass Double-A Bowie and begin the season at Triple-A Rochester. "This guy is a great athlete. I'm just saying it's something we should consider. I'm not trying to tell our minor leagues who to play and where to play them, but I think it would be something to consider."

Miller broached the possibility last week, but has not yet received feedback from general manager Pat Gillick, assistant general manager Kevin Malone and director of player development Syd Thrift. Apparently, there's less enthusiasm for the idea within the front office than within the Orioles' dugout. Miller cites the 6-foot-7 Minor's athleticism as further justification for the experiment. Minor is a former All-America basketball player at Oklahoma.

To those who might suggest that Minor is too large for the position, Miller cites Cal Ripken as precedent.

"If you've got a spot, let the kid play there and learn about the game and you might have another Cal Ripken," Miller said.

Miller admits that placing Minor at shortstop might necessitate him going to Bowie rather than Rochester. The organization is leaning in that direction anyway.

For his part, Minor appeared jolted by Miller's suggestion. The Orioles' minor-league player of the year has played only first and third base since the club selected him with a 33rd round pick in the 1996 draft. Minor last played shortstop at Oklahoma.

"Whatever happens, happens," Minor said. "If they want me to move, then that's what will happen. As long as I play every day, it's OK with me."

Benitez bobs and weaves

The most obvious blemish on yesterday's 10-6 win over the Florida Marlins was the unsteady outing by reliever Armando Benitez. Handicapped by a two-out error, Benitez allowed three unearned runs, including a two-run homer by Kevin Millar. Pitching coach Mike Flanagan made a mound visit. Benitez retreated, bent over and appeared less than receptive to Flanagan's words.

"I guess we're giving up a lot of hits. But we really don't know who we're facing," Miller said after watching the Marlins bang out 13 hits. Millar had a pretty good day. We wanted to get the ball away from him and we didn't. [First baseman Derrek] Lee had some good swings. I thought Armando could go by him upstairs but he got the ball down. But I'm not worried about him."

Miller wants to see Benitez become more businesslike in all situations. Not just in those where the game hinges on each pitch.

"That's the last step for Armando," said Miller. "That's called experience."

The Iron Man rests

Miller gave third baseman Ripken a rare home game off yesterday, starting Jeff Reboulet instead. Ripken traditionally plays every game during spring training while missing selective road trips. However, with no activity planned for today, Miller thought Ripken should take 48 hours off to better prepare for another 162-game season.

Ripken emerged from a mini-funk Monday night against the Marlins with two hits, raising his Grapefruit average to .257.

Mathews shows progress

After opening camp with three straight difficult outings, Terry Mathews managed a second consecutive scoreless appearance yesterday. Mathews went 1 1/3 innings in which he allowed a broken-bat single and struck out two, including Marlins slugger Gary Sheffield.

"That's the best I've seen Terry throw in a while," Miller said. "I thought he popped the ball. It was a big outing for him. Right now, he feels good about himself."

Mathews continues to work diligently with Flanagan on realigning his delivery. Prone toward falling toward first base, Mathews is now striding more toward the plate, improving his location.

"I can see where it's starting to pay off," said Mathews, who has allowed 14 base runners but only two walks in 8 2/3 innings.

Around the horn

Roberto Alomar singled off Marlins left-handed starter Felix Heredia in the second inning. Observed Miller about the second baseman's ability to bat right-handed: "I guess we don't have to talk about that anymore." Alomar is 7-for-11 at .636 batting right-handed. Non-roster second baseman P. J. Forbes continues to impress. His bases-loaded double in the seventh gave him six RBIs in 13 at-bats. Minor kept intact his streak of having played in every spring game. He went 1-for-2 against the Marlins, raising his average to .353. The Orioles will not hold workouts today as they enjoy their only day off from camp. They resume their schedule in Jupiter against the Montreal Expos. Tony Tarasco grounded to first in his only plate appearance. He is now 4-for-27 (.148) this spring, doing little to assist the Orioles' efforts to trade him. "I haven't had a hit since Woodstock," he said.

Pub Date: 3/18/98

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