Johnson is open to Murray returning next year 'Gamer' positive presence to have in clubhouse


CLEVELAND -- Eddie Murray hasn't said whether he wants to play next year and the Orioles haven't assessed their needs for 1997. But all things being equal, manager Davey Johnson would like to have Murray back. Johnson loves his presence in the clubhouse.

"He's always offering encouragement to everybody on the ballclub," said Johnson. "He's a gamer, a battler. I can't say enough good about him.

"I knew Eddie from Los Angeles, and I knew, even if he didn't hit anything, that he could help us by his presence on the ballclub. He knows what it's all about, knows the problems a manager might have. He's not someone who needs a whole lot from me or the coaches -- in fact, he's like a coach."

Murray's contract expires this year, and if the 40-year-old reaches 500 homers by the end of the year, he may want to retire. The Orioles may try to sign Paul Molitor again to fill the DH role.

"Nothing in this game is for certain," Johnson said, "but with what he's done for this organization, and the way he's been with this ballclub, I wouldn't preclude [Murray coming back]. . . . I would love to have more guys I can write into the lineup like him, of his pedigree and his potential."

Ripken playing deeper

Shortstop Cal Ripken is positioning himself deeper at shortstop since his brief sabbatical at third base, at times setting up on the outfield grass.

"Sometimes he plays on the grass because it's muddy in the infield," Johnson said. "[But] I know earlier in the season his arm was a little sore. He's probably playing deeper now because his arm feels better."

Playing deeper also increases Ripken's range on hard-hit balls that have a chance to shoot through the infield.

Rockin' lefty

Rick Krivda was disappointed he was removed in the fifth inning of Saturday's 9-4 victory over Cleveland, with the Orioles leading 6-1.

But after the game, his younger brother and a friend met him, and the trio went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in downtown Cleveland. That, Krivda said yesterday, made him feel better.

Krivda hustled through the place in two hours and then doubled back to see several exhibits again, "ones that looked interesting," Krivda said. He liked the mannequins dressed in clothes worn by rock stars.

"They had the outfit of Axl Rose," Krivda said, "and Kiss' Gene Simmons. His cobrahead boots were wild -- they go up to his waist, and they've got red rubies for the eyes."

Getting an early jump

Johnson said he hopes the Orioles hold an instructional league camp, providing an opportunity for him to see some of the organization's better prospects and assess whether they could jump to the majors next year.

The Orioles have a handful of pitching prospects at Single-A Frederick -- Nerio Rodriguez, Chris Fussell, Alvie Shepherd and others -- and in the past, Johnson has been open to the idea of jumping pitchers from Single-A and Double-A to the majors (Dwight Gooden, Jesse Orosco and Roger McDowell being three examples).

Praise for Hammonds

Johnson likes what he's seen of Jeffrey Hammonds since the outfielder returned from Triple-A. "He looks more relaxed," Johnson said before yesterday's game, in which Hammonds hit a bases-empty homer in four at-bats. "He's not fighting himself, like he was when he left here. He's not like a fish out of water, which is what he was."

Around the horn

Catcher Chris Hoiles was lifted for a pinch hitter in the ninth inning, because of cramping in his legs after a collision at home. Hoiles said he's fine. . . . The Orioles likely will go to a four-man rotation over the next week, with David Wells starting tonight and probably coming back to pitch against Chicago on three days' rest Friday. Johnson says it's going to depend somewhat on how the Orioles fare the next few days. . . . Orosco's ERA has sunk to 4.38 and with another few scoreless innings, he'll be under 4.00 -- incredible progress considering Orosco allowed 12 earned runs in 2 1/3 innings over two days, including eight runs in one-third of an inning against Texas April 19 in a 26-7 loss. Orosco's ERA in his 37 other appearances is 1.56. The Orioles allowed 16 runs in the eighth inning of that Texas game. Add in the Indians' 11 runs in the eighth yesterday, and the 27 runs in those two innings combined are 42 percent of all the eighth-inning runs allowed by the Orioles this year. . . . Before yesterday, the last lefty starter to win for Cleveland was Bud Black on June 29, 1995.

Hits and misses On the field: While the Orioles' regulars did battle on the field, backup catcher Gregg Zaun fought his own war off the field, with Indians mascot Slider. The mascot taunted Zaun, sitting in the Orioles bullpen, and from his equipment bag Zaun pulled out a slingshot. The mascot took several direct hits before leaving.

In the dugout: Before the game, the Orioles posted two different starting lineups -- one vs. a left-hander, one vs. a right-hander -- because Cleveland didn't know whether scheduled starter Dennis Martinez would be sidelined by elbow problems -- in which case he'd have to be replaced by left-hander Brian Anderson. Martinez couldn't start and was placed on the 15-day disabled list, and Anderson pitched in his place, picking up the victory.

In the clubhouse: "When Kenny made the catch, I said, 'You got to be kidding me.' I was so excited I started sweating." -- Cleveland reliever Danny Graves.

Pub Date: 8/05/96

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