Seldom-used Ron Kittle took his case to Orioles general manager Roland Hemond yesterday. Nothing was resolved, but it appears the club is now leaning toward picking up the option year on Kittle's contract.
Kittle, 32, said he was told the matter would be decided shortly, and he's certain to be a topic of discussion tomorrow at TC season-ending meeting among manager Frank Robinson, his coaches and front-office personnel.
The decision rests entirely with the Orioles, who have until Dec. 20 to accept Kittle's option year, valued at $550,000 before incentives. At the very least, it appears Kittle will return with the club for spring training, barring a trade.
"He likes to play, and he's anxious to prove what he can do," Hemond said before last night's 6-3 victory over Toronto at Memorial Stadium. "It's just unfortunate he showed up with that pulled groin.
"When that's bothering you, you can't be yourself. It's tough for a power hitter to get in a good groove. Like I've said before, we haven't seen the real Ron Kittle.
"He hit 16 homers before we acquired him [from the White Sox]. The people here didn't get to see them. But I know when he's sound he puts on hitting shows. In games he'll hit some tape-measure jobs. But I've seen him in batting practice, and he hasn't hit the ball like he can."
Kittle, a first baseman and designated hitter, acknowledged he was still not 100 percent last night. Still, he has been disturbed by his lack of playing time since joining the Orioles July 30 in exchange for Phil Bradley.
After leading the White Sox with home runs, he has batted only .164 for the Orioles, with two homers and three RBIs in 61 at-bats. His last start was Sept. 15, and Robinson last week cited his groin as the reason.
Kittle refused comment at that time, apparently miffed over his extended layoff. But after speaking with Hemond, his former GM in Chicago, he seemed at ease. "He made me feel a lot better," Kittle said. "We left all options open."
So, will he be back?
"He's not at liberty to say, but he knows I haven't been healthy the whole time since I've been here," Kittle said. "He also knows I'll go out day-in, day-out, even if I'm sore.
"It was a positive talk. I stated my feelings. I didn't air him out. I wouldn't scream at him. But in my heart, looking at my playing capabilities on this team, I want to know if there's a future, or if there's a better chance to play somewhere else every day.
"I know if I play on an everyday basis I'm very capable of hitting 30 home runs,