Whitt OKs invitation from Orioles Catcher to attend spring-training camp

January 29, 1991|By Kent Baker

Ernie Whitt received invitations from several major-league teams to attend spring training. But he liked what he saw of his chances to make the Baltimore Orioles.

"I felt I had a better shot there," Whitt said yesterday from his Michigan home after the Orioles announced he will join them in camp Feb. 21 in Sarasota, Fla.

"They have a need for a left-handed hitter and maybe a catcher, and picking up [Dwight] Evans and [Glenn] Davis makes them look like a pretty powerful team with a good mix of guys. I thought this was a good fit."

Whitt, 38, was the last of the original Blue Jays to leave Toronto when he was traded to the Atlanta Braves in December 1989. For 10 seasons, he was a fixture in the American League, making the All-Star team in 1985.

But a thumb injury ruined his only year in the National League. He batted .172 with two homers and 10 RBI in 67 games.

"I just stunk the place out," he said. "I had surgery on my receiving thumb in June and didn't come back until August. By then, the team was so far out, it was understandably going with the kids.

"I don't know whether the switch of leagues affected me, but I know the injury had a lot to do with it."

General manager Roland Hemond said Whitt will be in camp on a "look-see basis. We'll see how the club shapes up, and a decision will be made toward the end of spring training."

The decision will involve whether to carry two catchers (Bob Melvin and Chris Hoiles) or three and probably depends on what type of spring Hoiles has.

"He's familiar with our league and has a good background," said Hemond. "If it turns out we want to come up with three catchers, it's nice to know he's in our camp. "We'll just see how much he has left."

For his 12-year career, Whitt has a .249 batting average with 134 home runs and 531 RBI. He came up through the Boston system and had 18 at-bats with the Red Sox in 1976 before departing for Toronto in the expansion draft.

The Orioles have received signed one-year contracts from left-handed pitchers Brian DuBois and Chris Myers, both members of their40-man roster.

DuBois, sent to the Detroit Tigers in the 1989 Keith Moreland trade, was reacquired on waivers last September, but did not pitch for the Orioles because of elbow trouble.

He underwent surgery and "is coming along well," said Hemond. "But he may not pitch competitively until late in the season."

With the Tigers, DuBois went 3-5 with a 5.09 ERA and allowed 70 hits, including nine home runs, in 58 1/3 innings.

Myers, a No. 1 draft choice in 1987, will go to his second major-league camp, this time with a better shot. He was 6-11 with a 3.52 ERA in 21 starts for Class AA Hagerstown last year. Although bothered by injuries during his professional career, Myers, 21, has good command of the strike.

* Hemond sounded enthusiastic about the "hard-core baseball" discussed at the Orioles' special scouting meeting last weekend in Texas.

"There was great interaction and a high level of intensity," he said. "There was a wonderful atmosphere. Sometimes, as the complexities of the game grow, you don't have time for deep baseball dialogue. This was different."

* Two Orioles have dates for their salary arbitration. Glenn Davis, first-baseman obtained in the trade with the Houston Astros, will be on Feb. 14 and second-baseman Bill Ripken will be Feb. 20. Pitcher Jeff Robinson is still to be announced.

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