In a move that falls under the heading of no-risk insurance, the Orioles have invited veteran Ernie Whitt to spring training.
While issuing the invitation to the lefthanded-hitting catcher, general manager Roland Hemond said Whitt would come to camp unsigned on a trial basis. "Sometimes when you set your roster in the spring, you're better off with three catchers," said Hemond. "Ernie knows the situation, that he'll be competing for a job as a third-string catcher and pinch-hitter."
A 14-year veteran, Whitt hit only .172 for the Atlanta Braves in an injury-riddled 1990 season that saw him appear in only 67 games. A .249 career hitter, Whitt spent most of his career in Toronto, where he was the last of the original Blue Jays before moving to Atlanta last year.
"When the Braves didn't pick up their option on Ernie last winter, Frank [Robinson] expressed the desire that he'd like to get him," said Hemond. "After we traded Mickey Tettleton, Ernie expressed an interest in joining the club."
Whitt, 38, was selected to the American League All-Star team in 1985. His presence in spring training will not affect the status of Chris Hoiles or Bob Melvin, who are expected to share most of the Orioles' catching duties this year.
* FLANAGAN RETURNING? Hemond indicated yesterday the club also might be interested in inviting ex-Oriole lefthander Mike Flanagan to spring training.
Flanagan has been working out with the Orioles at Memorial Stadium in an effort to make a comeback after being released by Toronto last May. Coach Elrod Hendricks reports that Flanagan is throwing better than this time a year ago, and there is a possibility he could fit in with the Orioles as a reliever.
"I haven't asked about him yet," said Hemond. "You can't make a decision on these things until the person himself has made a determination he wants to give it a shot."
Flanagan, 39, who makes his home here, has had contact with a few major-league teams, but, like the Orioles, all have adopted a wait-and-see approach.
* LEFTHANDERS SIGN: Rookie lefthanders Chris Myers and Brian DuBois became the 11th and 12th Orioles to agree to terms for 1991. Neither figures in the club's immediate plans, but both are considered future prospects.
DuBois, 23, was traded to Detroit for Keith Moreland in 1989. He was reacquired on waivers last September but did not pitch for the Orioles because of elbow trouble. He is recovering from surgery and will probably miss most of the year. He was 2-3 with a 5.09 earned run average for the Tigers and 5-4 with a 2.71 ERA with Triple A Toledo last year.
Myers, 21, the Orioles' No. 1 draft choice in 1987, was 6-11 with a 3.52 ERA at Double A Hagerstown last year.