- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 24, 2004

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — B.J. Surhoff is seeking to extend his baseball career by stretching out his 39-year-old body.

Surhoff spends up to an hour each day loosening up his limbs, neck and torso. The ritual extends well beyond such routine exercises as touching his toes or swiveling his hips.

Surhoff’s locker — the same eminent cubicle used by former Baltimore Orioles stars Cal Ripken and Jeff Conine — is filled with mats and strange-looking equipment designed to pull his muscles like a warm piece of taffy.

“I don’t know if he’s stretching or doing yoga, but it’s working. He’s in great shape,” teammate Rafael Palmeiro said.

Surhoff no longer has the resilient body he possessed when he began his major league career in 1987 with the Milwaukee Brewers. Because he’s missed significant time with injuries in each of the past two seasons, he has adopted a workout that stresses endurance rather than bulk.

“The biggest thing I have to do is stay healthy,” Surhoff said yesterday. “I have a different approach to how I work out now. It’s not so much pounding weights. I’m just trying to be a little smarter in taking care of my body. I wish I would have done some of these things 10 years ago, in terms of mobility and flexibility.”

Surhoff made two trips to the disabled list last season with a strained right hamstring and a strained left quadriceps. He played in only 93 games, but his .295 batting average and leadership qualities convinced the Orioles to give him a minor league deal that will become a major league contract (worth $800,000 plus incentives) if he makes the club.

Surhoff’s place on the Opening Day roster is virtually assured, although there are no guarantees that he can break into the starting lineup. That, like last year, will take care of itself.

In 2003 he started 37 games at designated hitter, 22 in left field and 20 at first base.

“I think my role is one that depends on what happens to some other people. I’d like it to be an expanded role, but it depends on who’s healthy and which way [the Orioles] go,” Surhoff said. “I imagine I’ll play some outfield, I hope, and DH some. I’m not going to catch. Repeat: I’m not going to catch.”

If he can stay healthy and keep his batting average hovering around his lifetime mark of .281, then Surhoff will always have a place on a major league roster.

In yesterday’s spring training game, Rob Ramsay made his first appearance for Baltimore, two years after having a cancerous tumor removed from the front of his brain.

Ramsay, pitching against major league hitters for the first time since appearing in two games in spring training last year for San Diego, allowed one run on two hits in one inning in Baltimore’s 3-2 loss to Montreal in Viera, Fla.

“I feel good. I’m pleased to be out there. I feel like I did a pretty good job,” said Ramsay, who wore a helmet for extra protection. “They got hits on pitches I could have thrown a little bit better, but that’s how it is on this level.”

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