Gonzales' exit opens Orioles door for Bell

January 16, 1991|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Evening Sun Staff

Every time the Orioles make a trade, someone other than the principal figure seems to be involved.

When Glenn Davis was obtained from Houston, the departure of Steve Finley cleared the way for recently signed free agent Dwight Evans to become more prominent in the outfield picture.

Then Mickey Tettleton went to Detroit, creating an opportunity for rookie catcher Chris Hoiles. Now, it's Juan Bell moving to the forefront following the trade of utility infielder Rene Gonzales to Toronto.

"It's part of our development program," general manager Roland Hemond said after trading Gonzales to the Blue Jays for minor-league lefthander Rob Blumberg. "Bell deserves the opportunity to play in the big leagues, and this gives him an opening he might not have had."

Manager Frank Robinson said last month that Bell would not return to Triple A, a clear indication he would either make the Orioles' roster or be traded. It now appears that Bell, whose speed is his major asset, will be given every opportunity to open the season with the Orioles.

For Gonzales, the trade is bittersweet. He figures to play more at his best position, shortstop, as a backup for Manny Lee while the Blue Jays prepare last year's No. 1 draft choice, Eddie Zosky, for the position. But Gonzales, 29, freely admits he's also leaving something of a comfort zone.

"It's a weird feeling," he said from his home in California. "I'm kind of happy, but sad. The people [in Baltimore] treated me pretty awesome. But sometimes you've got to get a little selfish and move on -- and that's where it's at.

"Cal [Ripken] will be there until he dies," Gonzales said good-naturedly of the Orioles' shortstop position. "I had let Roland know that if something could be done to benefit the team, and help me out -- I'd accept that. He always told me the team was his first priority, but if he could do something to help me out he'd do it.

"I'm real happy because I'll have a chance to play a lot more," said Gonzales, who was acquired from Montreal in December 1986 in exchange for catcher John Stefaro. "But I have a lot of memories, and I'm sad because I'll miss those guys, that locker room. There's nothing I can bitch about."

Hemond acknowledged that Gonzales had indicated he would appreciate a trade that might help his career. "We still have [Tim] Hulett and [Jeff] McKnight in addition to Bell," said Hemond. "You have to encourage young players that they'll always have ** the chance to advance to the major leagues -- and sometimes you have to open up spots for them."

If Bell, 22, sticks with the Orioles that will clear the way for Ricky Gutierrez and Manny Alexander, two younger shortstop prospects, to progress more rapidly in the minor-league system.

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