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BOSTON -- He dived on purpose and by accident. He chased down balls in the gap. He tried to steal a base. Four weeks after suffering a fractured left rib in a preseason game, Brady Anderson returned as a two-way threat.

Anderson made the decision after Sunday's game against the Boston Red Sox. He called manager Davey Johnson's hotel room, left a message, and received a return call around 11: 15 p.m. It was then that Anderson informed Johnson that his shelf life as designated hitter was over.

"Are you sure?" said Johnson, who had left Fenway Park thinking that Anderson's return to the outfield would come sometime during this week's homestand.

Anderson said he was sure, then asked about his performance as DH.

"Outstanding," Johnson said. "You'll be hard to replace."

Back in center field, Anderson played with customary abandon yesterday. "I feel fine. I feel like I can play. I've wanted to play for a while, obviously," he said before playing his first game in the outfield since March 23.

At times, Anderson seemed eager to shake any remaining rust from his game. He singled leading off the game, but wiped out as he rounded first base. When Anderson scrambled back to the bag, he clutched at his side.

His day involved only two putouts but he slipped chasing Troy O'Leary's second-inning double. No harm, no foul.

His eventful start continued in the third. With one out, Anderson legged out a double on a ball that skipped by second baseman John Valentin into short right field. Trying to put himself at third base with one out and Roberto Alomar batting, Anderson broke late and was thrown out by Red Sox catcher Scott Hatteberg. The Red Sox discussed Anderson's tendency to steal third before the game.

"I hate to see him thrown out easy," Johnson said. "I don't mind him being aggressive. We weren't getting much out of the infield."

While the Orioles scuffled against Red Sox starter Aaron Sele, Anderson gave another distracting performance. His first two-at-bats brought a single and a double, breaking an 0-for-13 skid, and he later walked twice.

Hitting below .400 for the first time this year, he restored his average to .396, not bad for someone who can remember "the first day of the season I didn't even want to be diving back into first base on a pickoff throw."

Anderson is given to extreme games. After three weeks of mostly watching the game, extreme boredom had begun to set in.

"When you start to feel better, you can be out there. The DH role is not as appealing. I guess it was fun while it lasted," he said.

Anderson enjoyed a good ride as the DH. He hit safely in his first four games, was batting .500 as recently as April 15 and at one point walked in eight straight games.

Entering yesterday's game, Anderson had a league-high .537 on-base percentage. The DH role was initially to last two weeks, but Anderson extended it after jostling his side during pre-game batting practice last week.

"I was shagging in Camden Yards and I hit the wall and it didn't feel that good. That's when I decided I needed a couple more days," he said.

Sunday night's call to Johnson's room came only hours after the manager had implied that Jeffrey Hammonds might hold onto the center-field job. Anderson has long favored the position over left or right.

He also prefers playing without concern over bodily injury. He never wore the specially fitted flak jacket commandeered from the Ravens. Yesterday, he hoped his presence in the outfield provided the final word on his month-old injury.

"There's a difference in it being bothersome and having a chance to reinjure it," he said, "and I think I'm past the point of reinjuring it."

Pub Date: 4/22/97

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