tampabay.com

Alomar expected to call it a career

After a rough return to the field, the 12-time All-Star walks off and is likely to retire today.

By MARC TOPKIN
Published March 19, 2005


ST. PETERSBURG - Roberto Alomar, who came to the Devil Rays hoping to add to his credentials for the Hall of Fame, instead appears likely to retire.

Alomar, 37, took himself out of Friday's exhibition game after making two errors and striking out in the first inning, then talked with manager Lou Piniella and met with general manager Chuck LaMar.

"He's going home and thinking about a lot of things, and I'm sure we'll have some type of announcement (today) concerning Roberto and his future with the organization," LaMar said.

Alomar returned to the lineup Friday after missing a week with tightness and soreness in his back. He hadn't played well in four games before the time off, going 0-for-10 with one error.

LaMar said the conversation was not about any specific problem.

"We talked more about his future, honestly, in the game than we did any specific injury," he said. "He's been banged up all spring as everyone knows, and he showed it again tonight. He hasn't played in quite a while, and that sure didn't help. We talked about a lot of things."

Piniella said Alomar came to him in the bottom of the first inning "and said he was having a little trouble seeing the ball and wanted to talk to me."

Alomar signed a $600,000 one-year deal with the Rays and was hoping to add to a legendary career, most importantly to get the final 276 hits he needed to reach 3,000.

He had been an All-Star 12 times, had won 10 Gold Gloves (the most by any second baseman) and finished in the top six of the AL MVP voting five times. He ranks among the top 50 all time in doubles (504), steals (474) and hits.

He had not, however, been aging gracefully. He had not had a big offensive season since 2001 and had been slowed and sidelined by a series of injures. He has also had to deal with the repercussions from his much-publicized incident when he spit at an umpire.

In January, Piniella said Alomar didn't need to get to 3,000 hits to be considered for the Hall of Fame.

"He really has been a dominant player at his position for a long, long time," Piniella said. "And not only defensively, but with the bat also. It would be a nice crowning achievement for a great career, but I don't think it's necessary."

The Rays signed Alomar hoping he would add offense and defense to their lineup and serve as a mentor to Jorge Cantu, the 23-year-old prospect they consider the second baseman of their future.

While Alomar has struggled, Cantu has played very well and would seem to be ready to handle the job. The Rays had already been talking about looking for a middle infielder, who at least would take the utility role that had been planned for Cantu. If Alomar retires, they will likely need to step up their search.