WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Orioles second baseman Roberto Alomar was tentatively scheduled to return to action this weekend after spending the past five weeks recovering from a sprained ankle, but manager Davey Johnson left the impression yesterday that he is in no hurry to put him back into the lineup.
"I'm cautious because I know what happened to Deion [Sanders]," said Johnson, who managed Sanders for the Cincinnati Reds. "He kept rushing back, and he ended up having surgery."
Alomar is walking normally now and is taking part in limited spring training activities. He has been hitting in the cage but has yet to take live batting practice with the rest of the club.
"I haven't seen him run yet," Johnson said. "I don't know if he'll be running with a limp. Deion played with a limp and then had to get his ankle surgically repaired. We will meet tomorrow to discuss it."
Alomar has extra leeway, because of his five-game suspension at the start of the season, but he does need to get game action in spring training if he is to avoid an injury rehabilitation assignment next month, since he will not be allowed to play in sanctioned minor-league games during the suspension.
Offer to Ripken improved
The Orioles have improved slightly on their contract offer to third baseman Cal Ripken, doubling the buyout figure in the option year to $2 million, according to a club source.
The Orioles have offered Ripken two more years at his 1997 salary ($6.2 million) and a club option on 2000 for the same salary. If they do not keep him for the third year, he would get $2 million.
No one is saying whether that change will be enough to bring the negotiations to a successful conclusion. Ripken still would like the club to guarantee all three years of the extension at slightly more money, and the terms of the new luxury tax could delay the actual signing until after April 1.
The Washington Post reported recently that the club may wait until after Opening Day so that the prorated increase in Ripken's total compensation would count against next year's higher luxury tax threshold, but the increase is not significant because the club is offering the same salary that Ripken will make this year.
The only increase would be the prorated portion of the guaranteed buyout, which would raise the club's payroll $667,000. The club would have more reason to be concerned if it were close to signing center fielder Brady Anderson, since he stands to get a substantial increase in his annual salary.
Anderson was ejected from yesterday's game against the Atlanta Braves by third base umpire Angel Hernandez for disputing a checked-swing third strike in the third inning. It was the second time this spring that Anderson has been ejected, both times in West Palm Beach.
"In my opinion, he misunderstood me, and if he could have taken it back, he would have," Anderson said. "If I'm [right], then I don't need to say anything. If I find out otherwise, I'll say something then. I think he misunderstood what I said because I didn't do anything to get thrown out of that game."
Umpires have said they will be quicker to eject complaining players this season, but there has not been an unusual number of ejections during exhibition games.
"Brady's hip has been bothering him a little bit," Johnson said jokingly. "When he wants out, he doesn't come to me. He goes to the umpire."
Davey back with Blue Jays
Rule 5 draft choice Tom Davey cleared waivers and was
reclaimed by the Toronto Blue Jays for half the $50,000 the Orioles paid in December to claim him and give him a major-league tryout.
The Orioles still have the other two minor-league players they drafted. One of them, pitcher Mike Johnson, has a chance to make the major-league club. The other, infielder Danny Magee, has cleared waivers and could be offered back to the Atlanta Braves.
In another move yesterday, the Orioles released pitcher Jeff Williams.
Plenty of good tickets are still available for the Easter exhibition game against the St. Louis Cardinals on March 30 at Camden Yards. The Orioles then have a day off before opening the regular season against the Kansas City Royals at Oriole Park.
Outfield injury update
Jeffrey Hammonds spelled B. J. Surhoff in left field yesterday despite a stiff hamstring, going 0-for-2. Jerome Walton did not return to action. He still is suffering from a strained abdominal muscle. Tony Tarasco remains sidelined with a nagging quadriceps strain. Pete Incaviglia is still sidelined with a rib cage strain.
What the Orioles did yesterday: Lost to the Atlanta Braves, 8-1, in West Palm Beach, Fla. Rocky Coppinger struggled for the first time in five exhibition starts, and so did relievers Arthur Rhodes and Alan Mills.
What the Orioles will do today: Play the New York Mets at Fort Lauderdale Stadium at 7: 05 p.m., their second night game of the spring. Right-hander Shawn Boskie will be the starter in another three-way showcase with fellow fifth-starter candidates Rick Krivda and Scott Kamieniecki.
You know it's spring when: The Orioles are bragging about the throwing of catcher Chris Hoiles, who has retired three of the seven runners who have attempted to steal on him this spring. Hoiles' arm has been considered a liability the past few years, but he is working hard to change that perception. He did give up a stolen base to Chipper Jones in yesterday's game.
Pub Date: 3/21/97