FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The Orioles were quick to welcome premier second baseman Roberto Alomar into their clubhouse yesterday, and he didn't waste any time making himself at home.
Alomar, who left the struggling Toronto Blue Jays to sign a three-year, $18 million contract on Dec. 21, took his place alongside Cal Ripken and happily pondered the possibilities of the Orioles' star-studded lineup.
"It's great to be around so many great players," Alomar said. "It takes a lot of pressure off you. It's similar to when I was playing in Toronto. The guys had great talent and they did their jobs. We have talent, but we still have to go out and do the job."
It may or may not be a fair comparison. New Orioles general manager Pat Gillick built the Blue Jays from the ground up and won two World Championships. He has turned over the Orioles roster in a matter of months, so there still is some question how the club will come together, but Alomar is not complaining.
He suffered through a difficult 1995 season -- one in which the Blue Jays dropped to the bottom of the American League East standings -- and now has joined a team that has an excellent chance to reach the playoffs this year.
"I'm really happy to be here," Alomar said. "I'm happy to be a part of the Orioles organization and real excited to be beside one of the legends of the game -- Cal Ripken."
Alomar and Ripken teamed up for the first time outside of All-Star competition yesterday, first for the club's initial full-squad workout and then for a joint news conference.
Training site update
Orioles vice chairman Joe Foss visited the club's spring training facility yesterday, then attended a reception with city officials who hope to convince the club to make the Fort Lauderdale facility its permanent training site. Foss said that the Orioles are not actively pursuing any other arrangement, but would not speculate on how long the team will work out here.
"We're really concentrating on making this deal work," Foss said. "Whether it's permanent or not, we'll see. We're very pleased with the condition of the facility. Everything they said they'd do, they did."
The Orioles finally have a spring stadium they don't have to share, but the ideal site would also have minor-league facilities. The club currently houses its minor-league operation several hours away in Sarasota, and probably would attempt to move back there if the Chicago White Sox ever go through with their threat to vacate their Sarasota spring facility.
Obando's big winter
Outfielder Sherman Obando was one of the most dominating hitters in the Dominican Winter League this year, but he found himself on the outside looking in when his club recruited a bunch of top-name, major-league stars to form a Dominican Dream xTC Team for the Caribbean World Series.
Obando batted .370 with seven home runs and 31 RBIs in 39 games for Aguilas, but he was replaced in the Dominican lineup by Los Angeles Dodgers star Raul Mondesi. Obando ended up going to the plate just four times in six games, all pinch-hitting appearances.
The Dominicans were favored to win the Series, but lost in six games.
Out of options
Manager Davey Johnson faces some difficult roster decisions over the next several weeks. Four players -- Manny Alexander, Oscar Munoz, Alan Mills and Arthur Rhodes -- are out of options, which means that the club must keep them on the major-league roster or risk losing them on waivers.
Mills and Rhodes are rehabilitating after surgery, so they can start the season on the disabled list, but the club could run into a numbers problem with the other two, both of whom are very much on the bubble.
Alexander was expected to arrive in camp late because of visa problems, but he arrived in time to take part in yesterday's workout.
Around the horn
Reliever Roger McDowell, who experienced some shoulder stiffness after his first couple of workouts, continues to throw through the soreness and indicated yesterday that he is nearly pain-free. "Like a kidney stone, it's passing," he said. . . . David Wells showed no sign yesterday of the slight hamstring strain he suffered over the weekend. He participated fully in yesterday's workout. . . . Closer Randy Myers still is a no-show, but Johnson continues to use his absence for comic relief. Myers, who lives in the Pacific Northwest, informed the team he would arrive late because the community college women's basketball team he coaches made the playoffs. Then he was further delayed by the flooding in Washington. "Maybe you've got to take a mule team down from the mountains out there," Johnson said.