Incaviglia's return means decision time Tarasco or Hammonds face likely demotion


ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Orioles face their first roster decision of the season today when designated hitter-outfielder Pete Incaviglia returns from the disabled list.

Manager Davey Johnson insisted he will not go any longer without a backup infielder. Asked about the status of Jeff Reboulet, Roberto Alomar's replacement, Johnson asserted, "Reboulet stays."

With the end of Alomar's five-game suspension today, Johnson will have a fifth infielder available for the first time this season. The unattractive alternative would be to keep B. J. Surhoff as an emergency fill-in.

"B. J.'s good but I don't want to do that," he said.

Tony Tarasco and Jeffrey Hammonds appear the most logical candidates to move. Hammonds has started every game in center field, hitting .167, while Tarasco received his first start yesterday. Tarasco went 0-for-3 before yielding to Jerome Walton in the seventh. Both players have options remaining but Hammonds is working off a stronger spring and more abundant playing time.

"I've worked to hard to get here," Hammonds said. "I don't want to go back."

Incaviglia has recovered from a hamstring pull suffered March 23. He has been able to run for six days and has gone without treatment the past three days. Incaviglia said his leg would have permitted him to open the season but that the risk of aggravating it outweighed any benefit.

"If you're a player, you want to be in there," Incaviglia said. "But over the long haul, playing five games doesn't make sense if there's a possibility of having to miss a month."

Win No. 4

The Orioles began yesterday as the major leagues' only undefeated team after surviving a harrowing ninth inning in Saturday night's 9-7 win. What would have seemed a formality during the club's opening three games became a thrill ride Saturday as the Rangers scored twice and put the winning run on base before Randy Myers escaped for his third save.

Shawn Boskie was given a 5-0 cushion in the first inning, thanks in part to catcher Lenny Webster's two-run double. However, Boskie didn't get beyond the fourth inning in his Orioles debut, leaving Arthur Rhodes (2-0) to go three innings for the victory. Rhodes has now won his past 11 decisions over two seasons.

Myers inherited a 9-5 lead and two runners from Terry Mathews and allowed two walks and a single before getting pinch hitter Mike Simms to pop out with the bases loaded.

After beginning the season with 11 1/3 scoreless innings, the bullpen was charged with three earned runs.

Coppinger on mend

In search of a little good news from their starting rotation, the Orioles received an encouraging sign from disabled right-hander Rocky Coppinger before yesterday's game.

Throwing from a mound for the first time since landing on the disabled list with a sore shoulder March 31, Coppinger went for about six minutes after 10 minutes of long toss. Coppinger did not throw with maximum velocity but did mix in breaking pitches.

Plans call for Coppinger to "air it out" on Wednesday and again on Friday, according to pitching coach Ray Miller. Johnson remains optimistic that Coppinger can be activated on April 15 without having to endure a minor-league rehab assignment.

"It went OK," said Coppinger. "I threw five minutes and I threw good. Wednesday I think I'll throw full speed. If I come in tomorrow and I'm sore, that would be a setback, but so far I've been throwing pain-free. I'm fine, I think."

Davis sits one out

Eric Davis got the day off yesterday. Johnson held him out because of a sore tendon behind his left knee, but Davis said he will be ready to play today in Kansas City.

"I think I'll be in there," he said, "barring a dramatic change."

Davis said he first felt the soreness after the second game of the season at Camden Yards. He had played in every game until yesterday and is hitting .412.

Pub Date: 4/07/97

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