Bob Melvin received a clue last month when the Baltimore Orioles signed him to a long-term contract.
"I thought when they signed me for two years, they were either going to trade me or I'd be there awhile and play some more," he said yesterday from his home in Tennessee.
"Unless something else happens, I guess this means I'll be playing more."
"This" was yesterday's trade of No. 1 Orioles catcher Mickey Tettleton to the Detroit Tigers for pitcher Jeff Robinson.
The deal leaves Melvin atop the catching heap, followed by Chris Hoiles, who had three stints in the majors last season, and Jeff Tackett, an excellent receiver who hit .239 at Rochester last season and is on the club's 40-man winter roster.
"The continuing improvement of Hoiles and the security we have now at DH [designated hitter] made us believe we could part with some catching at this time," general manager Roland Hemond said.
"We're deeper than we have been at first base, and Mickey had a lot of time at DH, a spot we can fill," Hemond said.
Hoiles said, "I can't say I'm happy because Mickey is a grea guy, but in the other respect, I'm happy because it gives me a chance to play and be here."
When Tettleton agreed to salary arbitration Dec. 19, Hoiles chances of returning to Rochester increased. "I wasn't disappointed," Hoiles said, "but I knew I had to work hard just to be here coming out of spring training. Now this opens a path and gets you even a little more excited about going down there."
Melvin, 29, reached career highs by playing in 93 games, getting 73 hits and driving in 37 runs last season. He is rated an excellent receiver and game-caller who made only one error in 1990.
"Maybe this time I'll get a chance," he said, "but I'm used to sharing the position. Last year, I'd go against left-handers, and if we'd win three or four in a row, I'd stay in there against righties."
He said he wouldn't mind dividing time with Hoiles, whom he described as a player who "can swing the bat, no question."
Hoiles, obtained in 1988 in the trade with Detroit for Fred Lynn, batted .348 in 74 games at Rochester and made the International League All-Star team.
He was on a .545 hitting tear over five games when his final term with the Orioles ended with a shoulder injury Sept. 23.