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Orioles' first impression a hit Ripken, Hammonds HRs back 5 pitchers in 7-0 win


BRADENTON, Fla. -- On a day when almost everything went right, newcomers continued to make the most favorable impressions as the Orioles opened their exhibition season yesterday with a 7-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Five pitchers limited the three-time National League East champions to five hits, and home runs by Cal Ripken and Jeffrey Hammonds highlighted the 12-hit offense.

"Nice going, pitchers . . . and a few hitters," said manager Johnny Oates, who may have some tough decisions when deciding his 25-player roster. For the first time, he addressed the long-shot possibility that Hammonds could jump from college to the big leagues.

The home run by last year's No. 1 draft choice capped a four-run eighth inning against left-hander John Candelaria. Hammonds' two-run home run traveled more than 400 feet to left-center field.

"I'm just going to look," Oates replied when asked if it was possible for Hammonds to win a job on the major-league roster. "I'm going to sit back and watch.

"He may be the guy with the least experience, but he's going to get the same look as everybody else," Oates said. "I think he's a very special individual. I haven't heard anybody say anything bad about him."

Hammonds tentatively is scheduled to open the season with the Double-A Bowie Baysox, who will play at Memorial Stadium this year. But at this point, he's neither ruling out any possibilities, nor taking anything for granted.

"It's the reason I'm here," Hammonds said when asked if he thought he had a chance to make the club this spring. "It would be unusual, but that's up to them."

Hammonds was hardly the only younger player who impressed Oates. "Sherman Obando gets one at-bat . . . bam; T. R. Lewis gets one at-bat . . . bam; Steve Scarsone gets one at-bat . . . bam; Damon Buford gets one at-bat . . . bam; Hammonds gets one at-bat . . . boom, see you later," Oates said. "And Paul Carey just missed hitting one out.

"The young players continue to do the things they've done all spring," Oates said. "I'm very impressed with what I've seen."

Despite the attention commanded by Hammonds and the other position players trying to make the roster, Mike Cook could be the one with the best chance. The right-hander was one of four pitchers -- the others were starter Rick Sutcliffe, Jamie Moyer and Alan Mills -- to throw two shutout innings yesterday (Brad Pennington had the other inning).

"All five of them threw the ball extremely well, I thought," Oates said. "And Cook continues to be very impressive."

Mills and Moyer gave up two hits each, and Cook gave up one.

The only negative about yesterday's game was that the Orioles made three errors -- one each by first baseman David Segui, third baseman Leo Gomez and shortstop Manny Alexander. "We didn't catch and throw the ball the way we can," Oates said, "but we did make up for that by making five double plays."

Pitching the exhibition opener for the second straight year, Sutcliffe breezed through his two innings, giving up only one walk. "Any time they don't score you have to be happy," he said, "but I still have a long way to go.

Moyer got credit for the win when Ripken, who had two hits in two at-bats, opened the scoring with an opposite-field home run to right in the fourth inning. Right-hander Joel Johnston gave up the homer and another run on Brady Anderson's sacrifice fly an inning later.

"I felt really good," said Ripken, who will be trying to rebound from his least productive season. "And I got a couple of monkeys off my back -- now I don't have to worry about going all spring without a hit or a home run."

In the seventh inning, singles by Segui and Lewis and Obando's double made it 3-0, and then the Orioles blew the game open in the eighth. Buford opened with a single and went to third on Mark Parent's double to right.

Both runners scored on Scarsone's single to left, Parent scoring when Pirates catcher Tom Prince couldn't handle the throw. Hammonds then applied the crusher with a drive that bounced off the fence.

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