Jays' Alomar in no rush to decide '96 destination He, Molitor express interest in joining Ripken


TORONTO -- Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Robert Alomar is so close to free agency, he said yesterday, he may as well test the free-agent market.

"If [the Blue Jays] had offered me something before the All-Star break, then maybe I would've thought about it and gone for it," he said. "Now you're in the last week of the season. . . . Now maybe it's time for me to try the market."

If he does become a free agent, Alomar will be the most coveted player available -- a Gold Glove second baseman, a potential Hall of Famer, only 27 years old. The Orioles, who likely will be in the market for a second baseman, could be one of the bidders.

"I'm going to finish this season, and then I'm going to think about where I'm going to go," Alomar said. "I'm going to wait and see what different directions teams are going to take. I'll have to wait and see."

Toronto officials say they want Alomar back, and are planning to put together a bid in the next month. Other clubs rumored to be interested include the Cleveland Indians, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox.

Cleveland officials reportedly have talked about moving Carlos Baerga to third, Jim Thome to first and signing Alomar to play second, with part of the attraction for Alomar being that he could play with his brother, Sandy.

"Playing with my brother would be a dream come true," he said. "But I wouldn't say I'm going to play with the Indians just because my brother's there. A lot of people are speculating that. I'm going to play where I think I'm going to be happy, the team that has a chance to win."

(Another potential sticking point is that Baerga has been quoted in a San Juan newspaper saying that he will not change positions to accommodate Alomar.)

Alomar said at the All-Star break that playing for the Orioles would interest him, and in particular, playing alongside Cal Ripken.

"Anybody would love to play beside Cal," he said yesterday. "He's maybe one of the greatest shortstops to play the game. . . . If you ask any second baseman, they'd say, 'Yeah, I'd like to play with this guy.'

"I'm not going to say I'm going to Baltimore. I'm not going to say I'm going to Cleveland. I'm not going to say where I'm going to go. A lot of people wonder where I'm going. I don't know that answer yet."

Another Blue Jay who may interest the Orioles is designated hitter Paul Molitor, if the Orioles decide not to retain Harold Baines.

Earlier this year, it was reported that if Molitor didn't return to the Blue Jays -- who hold a $4 million option on him for next year -- he would finish out his career in Milwaukee or Minnesota.

That's not entirely accurate, Molitor said yesterday. Milwaukee and Minnesota make sense, because he played in Milwaukee for years and he lives in Minnesota. But if he doesn't go back to the Blue Jays, he said he'd be willing to play for any team "that wanted me, that played the game hard and played the game right, a situation I would respect walking in there."

Like Baltimore?

"It would have to be," he said. "Baltimore was one of the clubs I considered in 1992 when I was a free agent. . . . It would definitely be a possibility if Toronto didn't keep me.

"After playing against the Orioles for 18 years, I can understand Cal when he talks about Oriole baseball, the type of ball they've played -- with him in a lot of ways standing for what an Oriole is. . . . To tell you the truth, playing with him would be appealing."

Regan, staff to review year

Manager Phil Regan will meet with his coaching staff before today's game for a season-ending evaluation of the Orioles. "We'll get all the opinions of all the needs, evaluations of all the players and an opinion of what's going on for next year," he said.

Regan was asked about the scheduling of organizational meetings, a standard procedure after every season. "I haven't been informed of any yet," he said.

The Orioles may wait until they're sure who's going to be the general manager (Roland Hemond or a replacement) and a manager (Regan or a replacement) before they delve into organizational meetings.

Around the horn

Some of the Orioles tuned into the closing arguments in the O. J. Simpson case before batting practice, huddling around a clubhouse TV. . . . Second baseman Manny Alexander, out since early September with a badly strained groin muscle, took batting practice yesterday. . . . Four members of the Orioles' rookie affiliate at Bluefield, W.Va. -- shortstop Eddy Martinez, outfielders Johnny Isom and Eugene Kingsale and pitcher Chris Fussell -- were named to the Appalachian League All-Star team. Bluefield posted a 49-16 record, best in the minors. . . . Blue Jays fans gave Ripken, playing in consecutive game No. 2,149, a standing ovation when he came to bat in the first inning. . . . Kevin Brown, one away from 10 wins, will start for the Orioles against Detroit on Friday. Rookie Jimmy Haynes, impressive in his three starts, will work out of the bullpen for the last days of the season. . . Orioles assistant GM Frank Robinson is the honorary chairman for a weekend baseball card and memorabilia show featuring 25 Hall of Famers, the final event of the Babe Ruth Centennial Celebration. Proceeds benefit the Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation. For more information, call (410) 727-1539.

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