Just in case, Surhoff tries 2nd base Alomar absence may force LF into emergency duty


PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- B. J. Surhoff made his initial appearance at second base as an Oriole against the New York Mets yesterday, playing four innings in the field before being lifted for a pinch runner.

His grade: incomplete.

Surhoff's debut was largely uneventful except for the first inning, when he was taken out on a hard slide by John Olerud while trying to turn a double play. He bounced the throw to first, allowing former Oriole Alex Ochoa to reach.

"I didn't get any plays. They kept the ball away from me. The game plan going in was pitch righties in and lefties away," he said after the Orioles' 13-2 victory at St. Lucie County Stadium.

"I had to prove to [manager Davey Johnson] I could actually stay out there and get myself killed. Last year, I had to prove to him I could still catch. I caught an inning here."

Surhoff, projected as the starting left fielder, had played second base once before, in a 1991 game with the Milwaukee Brewers. But when Roberto Alomar returns from his season-opening, five-game suspension for spitting at umpire John Hirschbeck last September, the Orioles could decide to go without a utility infielder and use Surhoff there in an emergency.

"If we go with five infielders and Robbie is one of them, I know Surhoff can play in the infield," Johnson said. "If Mickey Stanley can play shortstop in the World Series, B. J. can play second base." It was a reference to the Detroit Tigers outfielder whose play at shortstop helped the Tigers win the 1968 World Series.

Said Surhoff: "There are so many things I've got to think about. I stopped to look at [shortstop Mike Bordick] a couple times on coverages."

Speaking of debuts, Alomar didn't make his yesterday, even though he traveled with the team.

"I was going to hit Robbie when we had the big inning," Johnson said. "He said, 'Shoot, this is a 13-2 game. What are you hitting me for?' I said, 'Go home.' I'll get him in there [today]."

Laker makes O's debut

Newly acquired catcher Tim Laker played in his first game as an Oriole, replacing Chris Hoiles behind the plate in the bottom of the fifth. He was tested right away, double-pumping and bouncing a throw wide of second on a stolen base by Steve Bieser. He also was charged with a passed ball.

Laker atoned for those mistakes in the sixth inning by hitting a three-run homer to center in his first at-bat as an Oriole.

Laker, 27, didn't play last season after undergoing reconstructive surgery on his right elbow in November 1995, then two follow-up procedures, the second in May 1996. He was claimed off waivers from the Montreal Expos on Tuesday after getting two hits this spring, both singles.

"I'm just looking for an opportunity. Maybe a change of scenery will do me good," he said.

"My arm is holding up just fine. In fact, it's better than I thought it would be, as far as throwing without pain and the arm strength that I have. They're going to take a look at me the next couple of days. I heard I'm going to get to play and let some people see me."

Said Johnson: "He threw pretty good and had a live bat a couple years ago. He didn't get much of an opportunity to catch up in the big leagues."

Injury update

Pete Incaviglia is unlikely to play any more in spring training, Johnson said. Incaviglia is sidelined with a strained left hamstring suffered Saturday and could start the season on the disabled list.

Johnson said Brady Anderson, who is bothered by bruised ribs on his left side, will know in a few days if he'll be able to play. Asked if he has any concerns about Anderson being ready for Opening Day, Johnson said, "I don't think so."

Jerome Walton (abdominal strain), starting in center field again in place of Anderson, reached on an error and scored a run in the fourth inning, and delivered a two-run triple in the fifth. He was lifted for a pinch runner after reaching third base.

Walton has been mentioned as a candidate for the disabled list.

Left-handed reliever Arthur Rhodes was hit on the pitching hand by a sharp bouncer off the bat of New York's Alberto Castillo in the eighth inning. Rhodes finished the inning and his hand was wrapped in ice afterward. Johnson said he was fine.


Otanez back, then gone

On Saturday, the Orioles announced that third baseman Willis Otanez was being optioned to Triple-A Rochester. But they recalled the option, deciding to keep him as an extra infielder.

Yesterday, Otanez hit two long home runs to left field, the latter a two-run homer that he admired briefly before going into a trot.

After the game, the Orioles announced Otanez was being optioned to Rochester. This time, they meant it. They also returned outfielder Scott Bullett to their minor-league camp in Sarasota.

HoJo could've been an O

Johnson said he had wanted the Orioles to sign infielder Howard Johnson, who failed in his comeback and retired from the Mets yesterday.

"I tried to get him over here," said Davey Johnson, who managed Howard Johnson in 1986 when the Mets won the World Series. "He's just that kind of quality individual."

Pitchers in swing

Orioles pitchers were fairly productive at the plate. Starter Shawn Boskie delivered the Orioles' first run with a sacrifice fly and was robbed of a hit by Mets shortstop Rey Ordonez, who made a sliding stop in the hole and threw to second for the force. Scott Kamieniecki reached on an error and singled to center.

Boskie needs to work on his base-running, though. He stopped at second momentarily on Tony Tarasco's two-out double down the right-field line and wound up on third instead of scoring.

Palmeiro hot

Rafael Palmeiro hit a three-run homer to center field in the fifth, his second homer this spring. He also had a sacrifice fly, giving him 18 RBIs to go with a .361 average.

Spring break

What the Orioles did yesterday: Hit four home runs and beat the New York Mets, 13-2. They scored seven runs in five innings off Mets right-hander Rick Reed.

What the Orioles will do today: Go to West Palm Beach to play the first of three consecutive games with the Montreal Expos. Right-hander Mike Mussina, who will be the Opening Day starter, will oppose right-hander Jim Bullinger.

You know it's spring training when: The Orioles' third baseman and catcher each hit a home run in the sixth inning, but their names aren't Cal Ripken and Chris Hoiles. Instead, it was Willis Otanez and Tim Laker. Otanez homered again in the seventh, giving him three RBIs.

Orioles today

Opponent: Montreal Expos

Site: West Palm Beach, Fla.

Time: 1:05 p.m.

Starters: Orioles' Mike Mussina vs. Expos' Jim Bullinger

Pub Date: 3/27/97

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