Manager Davey Johnson knew it was going to happen sooner or later. Put Brady Anderson in the outfield, cracked rib and all, and wait for the inevitable run-in with the wall.

It came last night, in the fifth inning of Anderson's fourth start in center. He raced back on a fly ball from Boston rookie Nomar Garciaparra, leaped to make the catch and rammed his left shoulder into the padding.

Anderson went down on the warning track, flipped the ball toward right fielder Eric Davis without looking and began rolling back and forth in pain. Johnson and trainer Richie Bancells rushed from the dugout, and as the replay was shown on the video scoreboard, the crowd at Camden Yards gave a collective groan.

Anderson, who served as the designated hitter through the first 14 games, rose to his feet after a couple minutes and drew a loud ovation as it became apparent that he was staying in the game. The collision didn't seem to affect his swing. He led off the sixth by flying out to deep center, but after drawing a walk in the eighth, he was replaced in center by Jeffrey Hammonds.

The Orioles said that Anderson aggravated the cracked rib and X-rays were taken.

Key in doubt

The Orioles' training room removed its outfielders-only sign yesterday.

Jimmy Key's start tonight is in jeopardy after the left-hander reported waking yesterday morning with neck stiffness.

Key, 3-0 in his first four starts, would switch assignments with tomorrow's scheduled starter, Scott Erickson, if the condition persists. Key spent several hours receiving treatment for the stiffness before last night's game.

"It's not an issue right now. Not until I can't pitch. I'm receiving treatment and I hope I'll be OK for [tonight]. We'll just have to wait and see," said Key.

Reboulet back at second

Despite fouling a pitch off his left ankle Wednesday night, Jeff Reboulet was back in last night's lineup at a more familiar position.

Given a rare start at shortstop to spell slumping Mike Bordick, Reboulet endured a tough night against the Chicago White Sox. He was nearly forced from the game in the second inning after taking a shot just above the ball on his left ankle. Reboulet remained down for several minutes, then hobbled to his feet. The area swelled immediately, prompting Bordick to remove his jacket in anticipation of entering the game. Reboulet remained, going 0-for-4 with a strikeout.

"It wasn't a great night but I survived it," said Reboulet, who was given last night's start to afford Roberto Alomar's left ankle some down time. "For a minute, I thought it was broken but [trainer] Richie [Bancells] said it hit high enough that it would have had to break the big bone."

Reboulet's ankle was fitted with a U-shaped protective guard. Meanwhile, the area is a deep shade of black and blue.

Improvement for Surhoff

Left fielder B. J. Surhoff felt his injured left groin muscle had improved significantly, further diminishing the chances that the team's insurance policy, Tony Tarasco, would be added to the 25-man roster.

Surhoff hit off a batting tee but has yet to run since suffering the pull in the seventh Tuesday.

Mike Johnson gets chance

Reliever Mike Johnson made his major-league debut in Texas on April 6, then waited patiently for his next opportunity.

And waited.

The Rule 5 draftee finally got into another game Wednesday, throwing a scoreless seventh inning. The first batter he faced, Ron Karkovice, flied out to deep left, and Ozzie Guillen drew a walk. But Johnson struck out Ray Durham and retired Tony Phillips on a fly ball.

The Orioles scored five runs in the bottom of the inning to tie the game, and Davey Johnson called upon veteran Terry Mathews. Mike Johnson's stay was brief, but satisfying.

"I wasn't nervous. I was probably more anxious than anything," he said after lowering his ERA to 3.60. "For the amount of time I had off, I was pretty happy, and I think everybody was pretty happy with the way I threw."

Around the horn

Last night's game was delayed 20 minutes by a passing shower. Bordick made his first error since April 9, and third overall, when he failed to catch a foul pop from Darren Bragg in the seventh Eric Davis' ninth career grand slam Wednesday put him in a fifth-place tie among active players. Eddie Murray (19), Harold Baines (12), Danny Tartabull (11) and Cecil Fielder (10) lead him. Robin Ventura and Gary Gaetti are tied with him. About 2,600 tickets remain for tonight, 400 for tomorrow and 1,200 for Sunday.

Pub Date: 4/25/97

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