FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Roberto Alomar's sprained left ankle is healing quickly, and although trainer Richie Bancells isn't ready to say the All-Star second baseman will be back sooner than expected, Bancells is "very encouraged."
Bancells is accelerating Alomar's treatment as he improves, and yesterday Alomar walked around without the aid of crutches he had been using since suffering the sprain Feb. 12. The Orioles initially expected Alomar to miss four weeks, but the swelling in his ankle is almost gone.
Alomar says the time he's absent "could be less, you never know."
"Robbie's had a lot to do with that," Bancells said. "He's been religious in getting his treatment. He's on time, he's here when he's supposed to be here, and he works hard when he's in here. That's a big part of [Alomar's recovery]."
Alomar usually arrives in midmorning, begins treatment and then goes through his stacks of mail and signs autographs. "That's about all I'm doing right now," said Alomar. "I miss being out there."
So does Bancells, who stays inside the trainer's room instead of monitoring the workouts. "The only thing about this is, I'm not getting any sun," Bancells said.
Alomar aggravated his ankle sprain playing basketball, something he's contractually forbidden to do. GM Pat Gillick said yesterday, "If he's not able to play, we'll take appropriate action."
Walton knows his role
Jerome Walton played in 102 games for the Cincinnati Reds in 1995 yet accumulated only 162 at-bats. His manager that year, Davey Johnson, often used him as a defensive replacement, and Johnson will employ him the same way this season for the Orioles.
The regular starting outfield will be composed of center fielder Brady Anderson, right fielder Eric Davis and left fielder B. J. Surhoff. But, Johnson confirmed, the finishing outfield often will be Anderson, Davis and Walton.
"Jerome is our best outfielder, in right, center or left," Johnson said. "He's got a good arm, he's got good hands and good range."
Baker's dozen for pitchers
Johnson continues to talk about the possibility of carrying 13 pitchers, and right-hander Scott Kamieniecki has an excellent chance of being on the roster. He continues to display a good, running fastball that would translate into ground balls.
"He's following through on his delivery, and that means [his past injuries] aren't bothering him," Orioles farm director Syd Thrift said. "There's absolutely no problem. He's coming around with a full, free delivery."
Throwing batting practice, Kamieniecki jammed Jeffrey Hammonds so badly that he broke his bat just above the thumbs. "He got him in the microwave," hitting coach Rick Down said.
Williams' fastball impresses
Brian Williams, another nonroster invitee, can be easily
identified. Just listen for the sizzle of his fastball.
But Williams, 28, has a lifetime ERA of 5.46, and he went 3-10 with a 6.77 ERA for Detroit last year. Tigers GM Randy Smith said he still believes Williams could become a big-time pitcher.
"Someday, somebody might get themselves a pretty darn good pitcher," Smith said. "He's got a great arm, but it's just a question of whether he can harness that ability. He needs to look himself in the mirror, and not point fingers; I told him that near the end of last season. He needs to be more dedicated and more focused.
"He's a great gamble for the Orioles. He has tremendous upside and very little downside. That's the kind of pickup which can help take you to the next level."
Johnson and Orioles pitching consultant Mike Flanagan share a similar history in basketball. Johnson dominated in hoops growing up in Texas, and he was a point guard for Texas A&M;, a tenacious defensive player. He was playing for the Aggies, he recalled yesterday, when he pulled up near the top of the key on a fast break and shot a jumper.
"But this guy on the other team," Johnson said, "took two big steps and he swatted the ball away."
Davey Johnson, meet Nate Thurmond, future NBA legend. "That was it for me," Johnson said. "That was the moment I knew I was going to play baseball."
Flanagan dominated in hoops growing up in New Hampshire, and in his first collegiate practice at the University of Massachusetts, he pulled up to take a jumper. "And this guy came up from about 10 feet away," Flanagan said, "blocked the shot, ran downcourt and dunked."
Mike Flanagan, meet Julius Erving, future NBA legend. "That was when I knew there would be a greater demand for left-handed pitchers in baseball than 6-foot-1 guards in the NBA," Flanagan said.
Around the horn
Surhoff is the left fielder, but he continues to take grounders at third base. Bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks says the club's current crop of young pitchers "is the best I've seen since 1978." Minor-league instructor Tom Trebelhorn has been working with speedy outfielder Eugene Kingsale on his bunting. Kingsale, who became the first Aruban to play in the majors last September, likely will play for Double-A Bowie this year. The Orioles' minicamp for minor-leaguers will begin today in Sarasota, with 62 players in attendance.
What the Orioles did yesterday: They worked on cutoffs and relay throws, then broke into smaller groups for batting practice. The wind gusts in from right field on the Orioles' primary practice field, and few hitters have been able to reach the seats. But first baseman Rafael Palmeiro did it on consecutive swings yesterday, and the small crowd watching the workout cheered. Palmeiro came out of the cage doing a monkey pump, exhorting the fans. "I'm working the crowd," Palmeiro said, jokingly. "I need All-Star votes."
What they'll do today: More batting practice, with the pitchers beginning to throw breaking balls. The first intrasquad game is in three days.
You know it's spring training when: Dress code rules must be enforced. One player walked on the field with his pants rolled up high, just below the knee, knickers or plus-fours. "Well, I guess I've got to deal with that," manager Davey Johnson said with a sigh.
Pub Date: 2/23/97