VIERA, Fla. -- Mike Bordick's father is alive and well in Maine, but if Bordick ever needs a substitute father, the entire Orioles coaching staff would volunteer.
They love everything about him.
"Ever since he got here, he's everywhere you go," manager Davey Johnson said yesterday, after Bordick had another hit and made two strong plays in the Orioles' 4-1 exhibition loss to the Florida Marlins. "Eight o'clock, he's in the batting cage. You go there [to a field], and he's taking grounders. You go somewhere else, and he's doing something, throwing a ball or something. He's relentless.
"You want to know something? That's the Oriole way. Now you're talking [about] the Oriole way, taking a hundred ground balls. That was Brooks [Robinson]. That was [Luis] Aparicio. That's what I'm used to."
Somebody asked whether Bordick was pushing a little harder this spring to improve his offense, whether he was turning up his play a notch.
"I get the sense that's just him. I don't think he's turning anything up. That's just him," Johnson said. "I've seen guys turn it up two or three days, a week. Ever since he's got here, he's been that way."
Two outs into the fourth inning, Marlins shortstop Alex Arias hit a grounder down the third base line, in foul territory. Arias and Orioles third baseman Willis Otanez assumed that the ball would stay foul, neither player moving. But it suddenly kicked fair, toward the shortstop hole. Arias broke for first and would've been safe -- if not for Bordick, who had run over from shortstop when the ball was hit. Just in case. Bordick retrieved the ball and threw to first to end the inning.
Erickson sharp vs. Marlins
Scott Erickson became the first Oriole to pitch five innings, shutting out the Marlins on two hits, walking one and striking out three. He also successfully sacrificed -- though he didn't move out of the batter's box after bunting the ball.
Johnson said he asked Erickson about the play.
"He said, 'I didn't know I had to [run],' " Johnson recalled, smiling. "I said, 'What if they throw it away?' "
The Orioles have a 3.67 ERA this spring, almost 1 1/2 runs lower than the team's cumulative ERA of 5.14 last season.
"The competition has helped shape up everything," Johnson said.
Irabu shopped elsewhere
The Orioles don't appear to be a major player in the bidding for Japanese pitcher Hideki Irabu.
Kevin Malone, the Orioles' assistant general manager, said club officials spoke with the San Diego Padres on Wednesday about Irabu.
"We asked them what they wanted," said Malone, "and they sort of indicated they could get what they wanted someplace else."
Before the game, Johnson did an interview with a Japanese television station and joked that he got inside information. "Now we've got the inside track on Irabu," said Johnson, who played in Japan. "Being bilingual, I'd be able to converse with him."
Ripken talks please Malone
Malone said he is encouraged by the direction of the negotiations with third baseman Cal Ripken, who is seeking a contract extension; the deal the Orioles and Ripken's agent are discussing would virtually ensure Ripken would finish his career with the Orioles.
"It just seems like both sides are really intent on getting a deal done," Malone said.
The Orioles have exchanged new proposals this week with Ron Shapiro, Ripken's agent.
Around the horn
The Orioles are one of six finalists in the bidding for Cuban defector Rolando Arrojo, considered by many scouts to be a front-line pitcher. He is expected to sign for a bonus well in excess of $4 million. A Mets scout attended yesterday's game. The Orioles are talking to New York about a deal for Manny Alexander, who would represent insurance against the possibility that Rey Ordonez has a recurring shoulder problem. The Braves have also demonstrated interest in Alexander.
Hitting coach Rick Down and first baseman Rafael Palmeiro noted the Orioles have a legitimate chance to win four Gold Gloves in the infield this season. Ripken's main competition figures to be Cleveland Indians third baseman Matt Williams, Bordick is highly regarded at short, Roberto Alomar may be the best defensive second baseman ever and Palmeiro is a good defensive first baseman in a league that has very few of them. Alomar, recovering from an ankle sprain, may be able to field grounders and take batting practice in a week.
Johnson balked when asked whether Kelly Gruber, hampered by a strained hamstring, is prepared to report to Triple-A if he doesn't make the major-league team. "That's not an issue right now," Johnson said. How much does Gruber need to play before Johnson can make a fair assessment? "He was just turning the corner when he got hurt," Johnson said. "Whether he lost that through inactivity, I don't know."
Arthur Rhodes' left knee remains sore. Johnson thought Rhodes tried to really throw his fastball for the first time in his last outing, "and I don't think he's quite ready to do that." There are plenty of tickets available for the Orioles' March 30 exhibition game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Camden Yards.
Exhibition opponent: Atlanta Braves
Site: West Palm Beach, Fla.
Time: 1: 05 p.m.
Pub Date: 3/14/97