Hammonds makes opening statement in fight for roster spot with 2 HRs His agent meets with team, but role in win speaks volumes about his value


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The agent for Orioles outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds met with general manager Pat Gillick and assistant GM Kevin Malone yesterday to get a better read on his client's status with the club. But whatever talking Jeffrey Moorad did couldn't match the statement Hammonds made in the exhibition opener.

Hammonds homered twice in the Orioles' 12-4 win over the Minnesota Twins at Fort Lauderdale Stadium, leading off the fifth with a blast to center field that tied the score, 3-3, and putting another ball into the netting above the left-field fence.

Neither one was cheap, and both were significant for a player fighting for a spot in the Orioles' crowded outfield.

"When you see results, there's got to be a personal satisfaction," Hammonds said. "I don't have to worry about getting myself actually in shape. I came in with my arm feeling halfway decent and my legs feeling good. I'm not out there thinking about anything except the task at hand, and it helps being around a bunch of guys who are also ready."

Tony Tarasco started in left field, then moved to center when Hammonds entered the game. Tarasco hit a three-run homer into the wind that easily cleared the fence in right as part of a six-run fifth, and also singled and stole a base.

Asked if he believed he was in direct competition with Tarasco for a roster spot, Hammonds said, "That's not my decision. You want to go out there and do your job. It's not a personal battle. You know how Davey [Johnson] coaches. Davey likes versatility, so if you can play the game and can help the team, he's going to find a place for you."

Ripken back at third

Cal Ripken's return to third base yesterday was largely uneventful except for the first ball hit his way, a wicked two-hopper by Greg Colbrunn that shot past Ripken into left field. He had no chance, but at least he still had his features intact.

"I don't know what it hit [on the infield], but it hit something," he said.

Ripken said the most difficult aspect of changing positions was "to get your mind set and think like a third baseman. The only way you're going to get that is through time. It's kind of weird. It seems like you're starting all over again, in a way. I'd like to play as many innings as I can to feel prepared for the season."

Ripken and new shortstop Mike Bordick teamed up in the fourth inning to squelch a Twins rally. Eric Anthony doubled with one out and tried to advance to third on a grounder to short. Bordick threw to Ripken, who tagged Anthony as he retreated.

"It was a pretty exciting day," Bordick said. "I've been anticipating it for a couple months now. A lot of adrenalin was going."

Alexander produces

If infielder Manny Alexander is being showcased for a trade, he made an impression yesterday, knocking in the Orioles' first run with a single to left and scoring on Brady Anderson's long double to center. His hit came with two outs and the count 1-2.

"This year will be the best spring training for me because I need to show somebody what I can do," said Alexander, who made his second consecutive start at second base, including Wednesday's intrasquad game. "I've got a good opportunity to get traded, so I'll try to do the best I can and do my job so I can go somewhere where I can play."

Gruber 'a little tender'

Kelly Gruber, who is trying to land a utility role with the Orioles and perhaps start at second base when Roberto Alomar serves a five-game suspension to start the season, said his elbow was "a little tender" yesterday morning after playing in Wednesday's intrasquad game. "That's probably from waking it up from the dead," he said.

Gruber had been out of baseball since appearing in 18 games with the California Angels in 1993. Two years later, he underwent fusion surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck.

Wednesday's action was another step -- albeit a tiny one -- in his comeback. Yesterday, he replaced Alexander at second base and went 0-for-2.

Around the horn

Closer Randy Myers, who reported Wednesday, threw for 14 minutes yesterday. After another bullpen workout tomorrow, Myers will make his first exhibition appearance March 3. Archie Corbin allowed three runs in the fifth inning, wiping out a 2-0 lead, but was the winning pitcher because the Orioles scored six runs in the bottom of the inning. He walked two and gave up two hits to the first four batters he faced.

Pub Date: 2/28/97

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