It was hardly an upset when the Orioles revealed Ron Kittle didn't fit into their plans. But, given today's market and the veteran's relatively modest $600,000 salary, it was mildly surprising they didn't pick up the option for 1991 for trading purposes.
The signing of Dwight Evans was not the only reason Kittle wasn't renewed, but it definitely played a role in the decision. The bottom line was that general manager Roland Hemond couldn't find a team interested in trading for the righthanded hitter, and the Orioles weren't willing to gamble that his value would increase before the start of the season.
Evans figures to play extensively against lefthanded pitchers, but those are also the games he figures to play in the outfield, where the Orioles are overloaded with lefthanded hitters. That possibility leaves room for a righthanded DH-type.
"We talked with other clubs [about Kittle] even before we signed Evans," said Hemond. "But there wasn't a lot of interest, with teams preferring to wait and see what other moves might be available. Once we signed Evans, it just didn't seem there would be the opportunity to get both of them ready during spring training."
Kittle's departure increases speculation that the Orioles are seriously entertaining thoughts of keeping both Randy Milligan and David Segui on the roster -- or possibly making a trade involving one of the first basemen. The same situation exists at third base, where incumbent Craig Worthington and rookie Leo Gomez are considered potential starters.
"It's possible, unless we make a deal," Hemond replied when asked if Milligan, Segui, Worthington and Gomez could all end up on the roster. Such a scenario would make either Milligan or Gomez available to DH against lefthanders, with Evans playing the outfield in place of one of the lefthanded hitters.
Those decisions won't be made until late in spring training, when manager Frank Robinson has been able to determine how much Evans will be able to play in the field. In addition to the outfield, Evans can also play first base, the only position other than DH that Kittle, who turns 33 next month, could play. So Robinson will not lose any of his alternatives.
* The Orioles' 1991 picture also will become clearer in the next 48 hours, the time Mickey Tettleton has left to decide whether to accept salary arbitration. Tony Attanasio, Tettleton's agent, has said the switch-hitting catcher would agree to arbitration, barring a firm multi-year offer before Wednesday's deadline.
* Hemond, who left today for a holiday vacation, said the club has not yet decided whether lefthander Paul Kilgus will be invited to spring training with the Orioles. That seems likely, however, after the trade that sent righthander Mickey Weston to the Toronto organization for Kilgus.