Johnson won't separate Alomar and Hirschbeck Possible exhibition meeting is 'least of my concerns'


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Orioles manager Davey Johnson said he's not going to worry about who's umpiring when he decides whether second baseman Roberto Alomar will play in an exhibition March 17.

John Hirschbeck, the umpire involved in the spitting incident with Alomar last September, is scheduled to work that game in Fort Myers, when the Orioles play Boston. If Alomar plays that day, it would be the first time the two men have been on the field together since last Sept. 27.

"It's not going to change anything," Johnson said. "That's the least of my concerns. I've got to try to get my team ready, and I don't care who's umpiring. I don't want to even know the date.

"Heck, he might not even make the trip. Or, maybe I'll tell you he's not going to be there, and then have him show up, so you guys [in the media] won't know about it."

Alomar is expected to report to camp today to begin rehab on his sprained ankle. He likely will be out for 10 to 14 days.

Deadline OK with Mussina

Pitcher Mike Mussina says that if he doesn't sign a contract by April 1, he will, in all likelihood, become a free agent.

"They don't like to do contract stuff once the season starts," Mussina said of the Orioles, "and I'm not really comfortable with that either. I saw with Cal [Ripken] a few years ago, it was tough on him when he was trying to go through the season while they were negotiating.

"Whether [Ripken] thinks it affected him or not, it seemed to us like it did."

Mussina, represented by Arn Tellem, was asked if once the season started, he might be so close to free agency that he might as well test the market. "That's not my opinion of it," he said. "But that's Arn's opinion."

Some baseball executives believe the Major League Baseball Players Association has taken a great interest in the negotiations of two players this off-season -- those of Mussina and Texas catcher Ivan Rodriguez, because they're two players who could set new standards in the market. But Mussina said he wasn't aware of any such special attention.

The 'other' Johnson

It's not hard to identify players picked in the Rule 5 draft. They're almost uniformly quiet, humble, wide-eyed, and participating in the major-league camp for the first time. Mike Johnson is a Rule 5 draftee, with a good shot of making the Orioles' Opening Day roster.

He pitched for Single-A Hagerstown in the Toronto organization last year, going 11-8 with a 3.15 ERA. When the Blue Jays didn't add him to their 40-man roster in the off-season, the Orioles made a deal with San Francisco to draft him with the third Rule 5 pick overall and swap him to the Orioles for a player to be named. The Orioles must keep Johnson all year, or return him to Toronto for $25,000, or half what they paid for him.

To date, the only major-league hitters Johnson has faced have been Kevin Elster of Pittsburgh, Kevin Jordan of Philadelphia and Alex Gonzalez of the Blue Jays. This spring, he could match up with the likes of Mike Piazza, Mo Vaughn and Fred McGriff.

"I hope it's not any different for me," Johnson said. "I'm going to get a lot of opportunities to pitch, so each time I go out, I think it's going to get easier and easier [to be comfortable]."

Johnson appears to have a good chance of making the Opening Day roster. The Orioles likely will carry 12 pitchers -- five starters, six veteran relievers (Randy Myers, Jesse Orosco, Terry Mathews, Alan Mills, Arthur Rhodes and Armando Benitez) and one other pitcher. If the season opened today, that would probably be Johnson, in long relief.

Around the horn

The Orioles have two other Rule 5 draftees, pitcher Tom Davey and infielder Danny Magee. Sidney Ponson, perhaps the Orioles' top minor-league pitching prospect, showed up at spring training last year weighing 244 pounds. Farm director Syd Thrift told Ponson that if he weighed more than 215, his invitation to the major-league camp would be revoked. Ponson weighed in 214. No player showed up in terrible condition. Pitchers Rocky Coppinger and Brian Williams are a little heavier than the Orioles would prefer, but should catch up shortly; Coppinger has been doing extra running in the mornings. Ripken likely will work out for the first time Thursday.

Mills was asked if he was going to take it easy early in camp. "I'm not going to take a day off," said Mills, smiling. "There are too many good young guys around here to do that." Nobody's sure when closer Myers will report. "Who knows?" assistant GM Kevin Malone said. "He's got to be here by the 27th, that's all I know. One thing about Randy is, when he shows up, he'll be in good shape." Shortstop Mike Bordick and utility candidate Jeff Reboulet were on the field at 8 a.m. taking grounders. Sam Perlozzo, who oversees the infielders, is greatly impressed by Bordick: "He's just so mechanically sound, as sure as you want to see out there. I'm impressed with, one, his work habits, and two, his physical skills."

Spring break

What the Orioles did yesterday: Pitchers have been split into two groups, and the group of pitchers who threw on the side Saturday threw again yesterday. Position players who have arrived early took batting practice, trying to bang the ball through a stiff wind that blew in from left field. New shortstop Mike Bordick accomplished something rarely seen from the Orioles last year, repeatedly banging the ball to the opposite field.

What they're doing today: Pitchers will continue to strengthen their arms in preparation for the first intrasquad game that is, believe it or not, only eight days away.

You know it's spring training when: Players are working out at new positions. Pete Incaviglia, who does everything cheerfully, took ground balls at first base. His huge chest, which gives him the look of a power lifter, made it a little awkward for him to catch grounders and throw. As usual, Incaviglia worked tirelessly.

Pub Date: 2/18/97

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