Yankees' Righetti warming up in Orioles' free-agency bullpen

Baseball

November 08, 1990|By Ken Rosenthal

ADD LEFTHANDED reliever Dave Righetti of the New York Yankees to the list of free agents in whom the Orioles have expressed preliminary interest.

Righetti's agent, Bill Goodstein, said yesterday he spoke last week with Orioles general manager Roland Hemond, who already has contacted the representatives of more than a dozen free agents.

Hemond made all of his inquiries during the 15-day free-agent filing period, when no salary figures could be discussed. Clubs have been free to negotiate with free agents since Monday, but Hemond has been busy attending the general managers' meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz.

"We've stated that we'll exercise all our options," Hemond said last night. "It's a matter of having some discussions, then seeing where the situation leads you to. You're never sure. You don't know unless you explore some of these possibilities."

Righetti, who turns 32 on Nov. 28, earned a major-league record 46 saves in 1986, only to have that mark broken this season by the Chicago White Sox's Bobby Thigpen (57).

He's no longer as dominant, but he finished 1-1 with a 3.57 ERA and 36 saves last season. Most important, he could fill a critical need for the Orioles, who are seeking a hard-throwing lefthander in relief.

Manager Frank Robinson has made no secret of his desire to pitch closer Gregg Olson less often next season, and the addition of Righetti would give the Orioles a dynamic left-right combination in their bullpen.

The world champion Cincinnati Reds demonstrated the value of using more than one closer last season, employing three hard throwers at various times -- righthander Rob Dibble and lefthanders Norm Charlton and Randy Myers.

"Five years ago, no more than a handful of teams had closers you could put in Hoyt Wilhelm's category," Goodstein said. "Then, everyone all of a sudden got great closers -- even Cleveland, with [Doug] Jones.

"There are very few teams that don't have a super closer. But that doesn't foreclose -- based on what happened this year -- a guy like Righetti being very desired because of the possibility of having more than one in your bullpen."

The Orioles also have expressed interest in two other lefthanded relievers, St. Louis' Ken Dayley and Toronto's John Candelaria. The competition for all three is expected to be fierce.

It's easier to sell a house today than find a quality lefthanded reliever.

* WILL THEY OR WON'T THEY? The Orioles renewed their interest in trading for Boston's Mike Greenwell at the World Series, but there is still some question whether the Red Sox are actually willing to part with their power-hitting outfielder.

"I think they're thinking about it," said Greenwell's agent, Joe Sroba. "But they're scared to death because Mike is an established All-Star. If they let Mike go to Baltimore or anywhere else, he might have an MVP season. They'll be kicking themselves for doing it."

Greenwell, 27, batted .297 with 14 homers and 73 RBIs after a horrendous start last season. The Red Sox almost certainly will keep him if they lose free-agent outfielder Tom Brunansky in the coming weeks.

But if Brunansky returns, the outfield picture could become crowded. For starters, Carlos Quintana is expected to move there next season to make room for the ballyhooed Mo Vaughn at first base.

The Red Sox are also trying to find a spot for another minor-league slugger, Phil Plantier. Further down the line, they have another top outfield prospect, Greg Blosser.

If they ultimately decide to trade Greenwell, they are certain to want a 15- to 18-game winner in return. It's doubtful the Orioles could meet that requirement with the present makeup of their roster.

* GENIUSES AT WORK: Some people forget about baseball once the season ends. Not the crack members of the Orioles' PR department. They've worked long and hard to compile the 1990 season summary, a weighty tome of facts about this year's team.

Bet you didn't know . . .

* In the past nine years, covering his entire career, Cal Ripken ranks second in the majors in extra-base hits (547), seventh in homers (225) and fourth in RBIs (828). Dale Murphy leads the first two categories, Eddie Murray the third.

* Randy Milligan bats right, but he entered the season with a career average of .217 against lefthanders. So much for that tendency: He finished 10th in the AL with a .330 batting average against lefties, and second with a .680 slugging percentage behind Cecil Fielder (.854).

* Mickey Tettleton averaged 36.04 strikeouts per 100 at-bats, the fourth highest rate in major-league history. Milwaukee's Rob Deer produced the first and third highest (39.24 in 1987, 38.41 in 1986). In between, the Chicago White Sox's Dave Nicholson averaged 38.98 in 1963.

* Ben McDonald allowed only 9.33 baserunners per nine innings, lowest in the AL. Lefthanded hitters batted .181 -- another league low -- and overall his opponents batted .205. Meanwhile, the Orioles' pitching staff finished with 10 complete games and five shutouts, both the fewest in the club's 37-year history.

* Mike Devereaux batted .239 with men in scoring position, but .324 in those situations with two outs. Sam Horn was just the opposite: .265 with men in scoring position, .147 with two outs.

* Shortstop Cal Ripken and second baseman Bill Ripken accounted for 11 errors, the fewest in major-league history by a double-play combination that appears in at least two-thirds of its team's scheduled games.

The best years by some other highly regarded combinations: Tinker-Evers (64 errors, Cubs, 1908); Reese-Robinson (34, Dodgers, 1949); Grich-Belanger (26, Orioles, 1976); Whitaker-Trammell (19, Tigers, 1988).

* More Bill: He improved his batting average 52 points, from .239 to .291. Only one AL player had a greater jump: Alan Trammell (61 points from .243 to .304). Rickey Henderson was third (51 points from .274 to .325).

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