When the late Edward Bennett Williams restructured the Orioles' front office in November 1987, he said the team's lack of black and Hispanic players was a "disease" infecting the entire organization.
Williams would be happy to know things have changed. The Orioles' 40-man roster now includes five Dominicans with yesterday's additions, outfielder Luis Mercedes and righthander Francisco de la Rosa.
The manager, Frank Robinson, is black, as are four of his six coaches. More than one-fourth of the roster players are either black or Hispanic, and the farm system also reflects an improved record with minorities.
It is in the Dominican, however, where the Orioles have made their biggest strides, and that trend began even before Roland Hemond replaced Hank Peters as general manager.
Both Mercedes, 22, and de la Rosa, 24, were signed by Dominican scout Carlos Bernhardt during the Peters regime -- Mercedes on Feb. 16, 1987, as a non-drafted free agent, de la Rosa on Oct. 24, 1987, after being released by Toronto.
Peters also traded for righthander Jose Mesa, who could crack the Orioles' starting rotation next season. Hemond acquired the club's other two Dominicans, righthander Jose Bautista in the major-league draft and shortstop Juan Bell in the Eddie Murray trade.
Mercedes, a converted second baseman, is a two-time minor-league batting champion who is likely to start the 1991 season at Triple A Rochester. de la Rosa, a hard-throwing starting pitcher, figures to join him.
Their last-minute additions pushed the roster to its 40-man limit. Hemond added lefthander Mike Linskey the previous day, and the Orioles believe they've now protected all their top prospects from the upcoming major-league draft.
A full roster reflects a strong minor-league system, and Hemond deviated from his normal procedure by leaving no open spots. In the past, he kept the roster at 38 or 39 to allow for greater flexibility entering trade talks.
But yesterday, he said, "There are ways to make changes on the roster in the event you need the space. I like to have some extra spots, but you can always make room."
Mercedes batted .334 with three homers, 37 RBIs and 38 stolen bases last season for Double A Hagerstown. de la Rosa went 9-5 with a 2.06 ERA for Hagerstown before a late-season promotion to Rochester, where he pitched two games in relief.
One negative on de la Rosa: He recently gave up a home run in winter ball to his brother Juan, an outfielder in the Toronto system. Juan is a hot prospect who batted .257 with 10 homers and 76 RBIs for Class A Dunedin last season.
* A TRADE! A TRADE! It wasn't a biggie, but the Orioles yesterday completed a minor-league deal, sending infielder Marty Brown to Cleveland for outfielder Jeff Wetherby.
Wetherby, 27, is a lefthanded hitter who batted .313 with five homers, 23 doubles and 42 RBIs in only 260 at-bats for Triple A Colorado Springs. He appeared in 52 games for Atlanta in 1989, batting .208.
Brown, 27, asked to be traded, farm director Doug Melvin said. He saw his future with the Orioles was limited behind third basemen Craig Worthington and Leo Gomez, as well as utility men Tim Hulett, Rene Gonzales and Jeff McKnight.
The Orioles selected Brown from the Cincinnati organization in the major-league draft last year. The cost was only $50,000, but Brown didn't develop. He batted only 15 times before getting sent to Rochester on June 12. At Triple A he hit .242 with five homers and 25 RBIs.