Three more young players with legitimate chances to make an impact this season signed one-year contracts yesterday with the Baltimore Orioles.
No terms were announced, but catcher Chris Hoiles and right-handed pitchers Jose Mesa and Jose Bautista agreed to salaries slightly more than the major-league minimum of $100,000.
With the trade of catcher Mickey Tettleton to the Detroit Tigers last month, Hoiles could see significant playing time behind the plate.
"If he has a good spring, it'll be interesting," said general manager Roland Hemond. "He could crack the lineup."
Veteran catcher Bob Melvin had a career-high 301 at-bats last season when Tettleton struggled, but never has been a full-time starter in the majors. The other catcher, non-roster invitee Ernie Whitt, is 38 and trying to bounce back from an injury-ridden year.
Hoiles, 25, has been working out at Memorial Stadium, particularly to improve his defensive skills. He hit .348 with 18 home runs for the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings last year and showed flashes of promise in three stints with the Orioles, for whom he batted .190 in 63 at-bats.
"My main goal is to get the starting job," said Hoiles. "This is my chance."
Mesa's story was one of the more pleasant surprises around the Orioles last year. After pitching for the Class AA Hagerstown Suns and Rochester in what supposedly was a rehabilitation year after two elbow operations, he finished with a flourish with seven Orioles starts. He was 3-2 with a 3.86 ERA in 46 2/3 innings for Baltimore.
"He was very impressive in those assignments," said Hemond. "Certainly, he's a candidate for the starting rotation."
Mesa, 24, has spent most of the winter in Rochester under instructions from the Orioles to rest his arm. He did not pitch in the winter leagues this off-season.
Bautista, 26, was with the Red Wings for most of 1990, but held major-league right-handed batters to a .197 average during three hitches with the Orioles. He made 22 appearances for Baltimore, all in relief, and was 1-0 with a 4.05 ERA.
NOTE: Hall of Famer Jim Palmer is scheduled to throw again for major-league scouts today at the University of Miami. Hemond said the Orioles will be represented by scout Miguel Machado.