Price undecided on signing minor-league contract Can't play in majors until May, PRC rules

March 01, 1991|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Sun Staff Correspondent

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Left-hander Joe Price has received clearance from the Major League Players Association and the Player Relations Committee to re-sign with the Baltimore Orioles, but he may balk at signing a minor-league contract.

"I'm waffling," Price said from his home in San Diego. "I know there are a lot of players who have been released and have come back, but I have to decide whether I want to. I'm disappointed, because a couple of years ago, [pitcher] Bob Knepper was in the same situation, and they let him start the season with the Giants."

Price, who became a free agent when the Orioles failed to pick up a contract option for the 1991 season, normally would have had to wait until May 1 to re-sign because the club had failed to offer him salary arbitration, but he received special dispensation because his marketability was affected adversely by a back injury. The PRC, however, will allow him to sign only a Class AAA contract and will not allow him to play in the major leagues until May 1.

The Orioles could have retained his services in October for a $400,000 salary, but reservations about his physical condition persuaded the club to pass up the contract option and offer a lower base salary plus incentives.

Price declined and declared free agency, only to find the market surprisingly soft. The past few weeks, he has been in contact with Orioles general manager Roland Hemond, who appealed to the Player Relations Committee for a waiver that would allow Price to circumvent the May 1 rule.

* The weather turned sour on the Orioles yesterday, forcing the club to reduce its workout schedule and move batting practice indoors.

That isn't a big deal, but the spring schedule called for only about a week of full-squad workouts, so missing a day would have represented a significant cut in preparation time leading up to the Grapefruit League exhibition schedule.

The Orioles have five more workouts and two intrasquad games between now and Thursday's preseason opener against the Chicago White Sox. Though most of the players came to camp in excellent shape, manager Frank Robinson doesn't want to lose another minute on the practice fields.

"If you only lose one day, that's not going to hurt you, and we didn't even lose a complete day," he said. "The idea is not to lose two or three days."

The pitchers were able to throw off the practice mounds, but did not take part in batting practice. Hitters worked out in an indoor cage.

* Right-hander Bob Milacki agreed to terms on a one-year contract, accepting the same $235,000 base salary he earned in 1990. Other terms were not released, but it is believed that he also received an incentive package.

Milacki suffered through a frustrating 1990 season that included a 5-8 record and was complicated by a sore shoulder. But he still is considered a leading candidate for the starting rotation this year.

Seven players remain unsigned, including Gregg Olson, Randy Milligan, Sam Horn and Dave Johnson.

* Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer appeared to be disappointed that his first chance to face live hitting was rained out. He threw off the practice mound and was reluctant to rate his performance.

"It's really hard to say," Palmer said. "You can't really gauge anything until you can see a hitter react to it. When Billy Ripken starts lining doubles all over the place, I'll know I'm throwing well."

Palmer has been working with a couple of small blisters on his right thumb, but claims that they are not serious.

* Robinson said he is glad shortstop Cal Ripken waited until the full-squad reporting date to show up in camp this year. Ripken is a perennial early arrival, but stayed home this year for personal reasons.

"I think that might be good," Robinson said. "I'm going to try to work with him this spring to keep him from doing too much. The crowds used to complain if you didn't bring him when you went on the road in the spring, but we do have a few other guys this year."

* Right-hander Ben McDonald apparently violated a Florida fish-and-game law when he removed an alligator from a pond Tuesday. But since he returned the alligator to a lake at Twin Lakes Park and does not have it in his possession, the matter will not be pursued.

* Johnson has a slight hamstring strain, but it has not cost the pitcher any workout time.

"It's very, very, extremely minor," said Johnson. "It's not even worth mentioning."

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