Third base is expected to be a point of contention during Baltimore Orioles spring training in Sarasota, Fla., this year, but Leo Gomez apparently doesn't want to wait that long.
In Miami for the Caribbean World Series this week, Gomez has challenged the Orioles to trade him or Craig Worthington, the incumbent at the position for two seasons.
"If they don't trade Craig Worthington, I want them to trade me," Gomez was quoted as saying in USA Today yesterday. "Somebody has to get out of there.
"I've done all I can [in Rochester]. I want to play. He [Worthington] wants to play. Only one of us can."
General manager Roland Hemond said he was not bothered by the comments and preferred to look at them as healthy.
"It's OK," said Hemond. "It means he has confidence. This is nothing new. Every year, somebody from the minors is trying to dislodge somebody already there, and every year the incumbents try to fight them off.
"This shows we have depth, players with ability."
Manager Frank Robinson, who has returned to California after four days of taping "The Cosby Show" in New York, said he preferred not to comment.
"I don't want to get into a war of words," he said.
Worthington has had a foothold on third base since he homered 15 times, drove in 70 runs and was The Sporting News Rookie Player of the Year in 1989. Only Brooks Robinson and Doug DeCinces have played more games there in Orioles history.
After reporting late to a spring training already delayed by the owners' lockout, he slipped last year, leading the team with 18 errors, batting .226 and hitting .198 with men in scoring position, compared with .313 his rookie year.
Gomez has been considered a defensive liability. He made four errors in his first two starts with the Orioles late last season, but the club believes he will develop into an adequate third baseman.
With Santurce in the Puerto Rican Winter League, Gomez has been playing first base to make room for Carlos Baerga of the Cleveland Indians.
He has compiled some solid numbers on offense in the minors and twice in the past four years has been the Orioles organization Player of the Year.
Last season with the Rochester Red Wings, he hit .277 and led the Class AAA International League in runs (97) and RBI (97), was second in home runs (26) and walks (89) and third in total bases (231).
Hemond said he doesn't feel pressure to trade either player.
"What you need is competition," he said. "If you trade off players, sometimes you eliminate that. This way is healthy for everybody.
"Certainly, Leo is in the picture to compete for the job. The fact that he wants it is a good sign."