Switch to second isn't in plans for Alexander


Manny Alexander worked out at second base before last night's game against the Toronto Blue Jays, but manager Johnny Oates ruled out the possibility of a position change for the rookie shortstop.

"He came to us and said he wouldn't mind working some at second base," said Oates. "We're not going to tell him no, but we're not looking at him as a second baseman.

"It [playing second base] is something that might help get him to the big leagues sooner, but we look at him as a front-line shortstop in the future. That's why, after all of the trade talks involving him, Juan Bell and Rickey Gutierrez (both traded last year), Manny's the one who's still here.

"We consider him the best of the bunch," said Oates.

Alexander has played only as a pinch runner since being called up from Triple-A Rochester Sept. 17. In the organizational ranking, Alexander is No. 2 on the Orioles' shortstop depth chart.

However, being behind Cal Ripken does not offer much immediate hope for full-time playing duty. Alexander, who hit .244 with Rochester, is the heir apparent when Ripken eventually makes the expected move to third base, but will probably spend another year in Triple-A.

Sticking with the veterans

Oates decided against starting either Mike Oquist, Kevin McGehee or John O'Donoghue in one of the final games over the weekend because they've had sufficient work out of the bullpen.

"They've been getting some innings, so we just decided to go with the veterans [Fernando Valenzuela and Rick Sutcliffe] and back them up with the young guys," said Oates.

Winter ball for Gomez, Rhodes

Leo Gomez won't be the only young Oriole trying to make up for an off-year in winter ball. Left-hander Arthur Rhodes is also scheduled to spend some time in one of the winter leagues, although details aren't finalized.

Gomez, who has played only once, Sept. 2, since coming off the disabled list the day before, will play a full schedule in Puerto Rico. Oates said his inactivity with the Orioles during the last month can be attributed to the steady play of Tim Hulett and Mike Pagliarulo.

"I thought at first there would be a way to use all three of them," said Oates, "but it was impossible. I had a talk with Leo and told him it wasn't anything he did, but what the other two were doing that was keeping him out of the lineup."

That stretch run

There isn't much of a mystery about what happened to the American League's East Division race. Since Sept. 9, when they led the Orioles by only a half-game, the Toronto Blue Jays were 16-2 going into last night's game.

During that same stretch, the Orioles were 6-13 and the Yankees 8-10. The Orioles' 11-game deficit was their biggest since the last day of the 1991 season, when they finished 24 games behind the Blue Jays.

Defense, defense

If they can avoid making three more errors, the Orioles will finish with fewer than 100 for the fifth straight year.

The closest major-league team to that feat is Minnesota. The Twins could join the Orioles this year as the only other team to go three straight years with fewer than 100 miscues.

Powerful fade

You couldn't tell it by the won-lost record (13-14), but the Orioles hit more home runs in September (29) than any other team in the American League.

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