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BOSTON -- Right field continues to resemble a battle zone for the Orioles. Eric Davis and Jerome Walton are nursing leg strains. More prominently, Davis suffered a shoulder contusion diving for a ball last week. And yesterday, the club received another scare when Jeffrey Hammonds aggravated a tender groin while making a catch on Mo Vaughn's sinking liner in the eighth inning.

"It didn't help," said Hammonds, who was able to jog gingerly back to the dugout. He returned for the ninth inning but did not bat again.

Hammonds said he believes the condition shouldn't keep him out of tonight's lineup.

Walton sat out yesterday after leaving Sunday's game after eight innings despite riding a 7-for-7 streak and having reached base in his last eight plate appearances. Hitting .476 in seven games, Walton is still considered a risk given the combination of aches that have nagged him since spring training. He is still bothered by broken adhesions stemming from off-season surgery to repair a groin muscle.

Davis' condition has proved more serious. Since undergoing magnetic resonance imaging tests and X-rays last week, he did not play any of the four games on this road trip.

Sunday, he took batting practice for the first time on the trip. Despite his absence, Davis remains tied for the team lead with two stolen bases in as many attempts. His seven runs scored in 39 plate appearances are only three off the team lead.

"Wet fields and leg injuries scare you to death," manager Davey Johnson said. "You can't stop. I'm concerned about [the outfielders]."

Coppinger gets first start

Rocky Coppinger gets his first start of the season tomorrow night against the Chicago White Sox.

Disabled March 31 with shoulder inflammation, Coppinger pitched four shutout innings against Chicago in relief of Shawn Boskie last Wednesday night and followed up with a strong side session Saturday morning. Boskie, now in long relief, survived only eight innings in two starts.

Coppinger will be afforded a liberal pitch count as he missed only one week of throwing.

Injury updates

Roberto Alomar insisted yesterday that his sore left ankle is much improved. However, he said he has no idea when it will be 100 percent.

"It's getting much better. I can't give you a percent. But it's getting much better," he said.

Johnson has tried to protect his second baseman by removing him in late innings and sitting him in cold weather.

In eight games, Alomar has yet to attempt a stolen base or get an extra-base hit. Last year he stole 17 bases in 23 attempts and mashed 69 extra-base hits.

Around the horn

Alomar produced his first hit in nine right-handed at-bats with an eighth-inning single against Chris Hammond. Alomar is hitting .233 (7-for-30) left-handed. Scott Erickson's wild pickoff attempt in the fifth inning was only the Orioles' second error in eight games. The error led to an unearned run, the fourth the Orioles have allowed this year. Boston's Wil Cordero has hit four home runs this season -- all in the fourth inning. Jesse Orosco celebrated his 40th birthday yesterday by making his first appearance since April 9. Jimmy Key turns 36 today. Tickets remain for all six games of the homestand, including 4,500 for Friday night, 1,000 for Saturday and 5,700 for Sunday. A win tonight would tie last season's franchise record for consecutive home wins (seven) to start a season.

Hits and misses

On the field: Second baseman Roberto Alomar tried in vain to complete a difficult unassisted double play that would have ended the fifth inning. With runners at first and third and one out, Alomar fielded Reggie Jefferson's grounder and ran Mo Vaughn back toward first. Alomar continued after Vaughn, tagged him, then flipped the ball past first baseman Rafael Palmeiro. Nomar Garciaparra scored for a 4-0 lead.

In the dugout: Davey Johnson got the message he had been waiting for Sunday night. Brady Anderson played his first game of the season in center field. Jeffrey Hammonds was moved to right field and Pete Incaviglia was given the DH role.

In the clubhouse: "If his ankle is better, he's going to be able to get a quick break. As it was, he was almost able to pull it off. To do that, which is a smart play, it's the instant acceleration that allows him to get that right away. He's not able to do that." -- Johnson, on Alomar's double-play attempt.

Pub Date: 4/22/97

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