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Alexander tries to excel 1 day at time


Manny Alexander knows that starting the next game hinges on that night's performance. If he doesn't produce, it might be another 17 days until he starts again.

"If I do a good job, I'll be all right because I'll be in the lineup," Alexander said before last night's game. "When I don't do a good job, I won't be playing. I played well last night, and that's why I believe I'm in the lineup tonight."

On Monday, Alexander had one of the three Orioles hits against Randy Johnson and handled all six ground balls hit to him at second base in his first start since May 19.

With that showing, Orioles manager Phil Regan decided to give Alexander another start.

"I thought he was quick, had good at-bats and ran the bases hTC well," Regan said. "We'll see how he does. We're facing a left-hander, so we'll leave him out there for another day."

Although it is not a stunning vote of confidence, Alexander will take it, and not feel pressured to succeed.

"When you go out and try to do good, you wind up trying to do too much," he said. "So if I try to go out and concentrate on doing good, I'll be out of the lineup."

But if last night's effort is any indication, he could be in the lineup for a while. He went 2-for-4 with a walk, a stolen base, two runs scored -- and his first major-league home run, which hit the left-field foul pole.

Just trying to stay in the lineup isn't how Alexander imagined his first full major-league season.

Through six minor-league seasons, Alexander was groomed as the successor to Cal Ripken at shortstop. Last season, when he played his first 47 games at second base before switching back to short, he was recognized as having the best arm of any infielder in the International League by Baseball America.

This season, the expectations have stopped and the changes have begun. Alexander not only has had to adjust to major-league pitching, but to playing a new position and to long stretches on the bench.

"I thought I would have more chances than I've had," Alexander said. "[Bret Barberie] has played second base for two seasons in the majors and that's why he's playing. All I can do is try to become better at second base and maybe get more chances to play."

Alexander, who lifted his average from .189 to .220 last night, hasn't played as awful as his batting average indicates. He has hit in seven of the nine games he has started and ranks second on the Orioles with four steals.

The season started promising as Alexander filled in for a slumping Barberie. Alexander started seven games in the first three weeks before Barberie started to hit again.

After that last start May 19, Alexander played primarily as a pinch runner before Monday.

"Pinch running is not my type of game," Alexander said. "It's only fun when the game is tied. I'd like to be playing every game."

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