Baltimore Orioles rookie Leo Gomez would like to set the record straight. Despite what you might have read, he does not want to be traded, and he isn't trying to run Craig Worthington out of town.
Gomez was quoted during the off-season saying that there isn't room in the organization for the both of them, but Gomez arrived in spring-training camp the picture of humility. He is, after all, the new kid on the block, even if he also is the best young hitter in the Orioles system.
"Craig is a good player," Gomez said. "I never said that he wasn't. I'm happy that the Baltimore Orioles have two good players at third base."
The play-me-or-trade-me story published a few weeks ago in USA Today did not misrepresent his burning desire to play in the major leagues, but he said he was not happy with the backlash that resulted from it. Gomez says now that he didn't mean it quite the way it sounded, and looks forward to competing for a place in the starting lineup.
"I'm ready to play in the big leagues, and I want a chance," Gomez said. "When that will come, I don't know. But this is what I've wanted to do all my life."
He never might have a better chance to crack the Orioles lineupThe job is Worthington's to lose, but he could lose it if he doesn't rebound from a dismal 1990 season. Gomez is coming off a tremendous performance with the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings last year (.277, 26 homers, 97 RBI), and followed it up with a big season in the Dominican Winter League.
The only thing standing in his way is his glove, which looked anything but gold when he made his major-league debut last September. In his first two games, he made four errors and misjudged a couple of pop-ups, but the Orioles feel he is capable of playing adequate major-league defense.
"I'm happy now with my defense," said Gomez. "I've been working hard at it. When I came up last year, I was a little bit nervous. I had never played with 30,000 people in the stands before. It gets easier the more you play."
But first things first. Gomez may have said he doesn't want to run Worthington out of town, but that's essentially what he'll have to do to win a full-time job.
He was right the first time. There isn't room on this team for both of them.
The Toronto Blue Jays have made much of their revamped roster, no doubt hoping that a better clubhouse chemistry translates into a successful run at the division title. But if there is strength in numbers, the Jays could be in serious trouble. The four front-line players they lost during the winter -- George Bell, Tony Fernandez, Fred McGriff and Junior Felix -- combined for 974 total bases last year. The three everyday players they acquired -- Joe Carter, Devon White and Roberto Alomar -- combined for 623 total bases. Spread the difference over a season, and that's an average of more than two bases a game. Now, add in the 102 walks the Blue Jays lost in the shuffle, and Toronto could be in for a major run-production problem. Anyone for a Canadian club on the rocks?
Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Ramon Martinez agreed to a contract yesterday, but while he held out, his agent had said they hoped to challenge the renewal clause in baseball's Basic Agreement. Martinez threatened to go to Japan if he didn't get his way, but the Japanese baseball leagues long have honored an informal agreement with Major League Baseball that prohibits them from signing a player who has not been released by his club.
The Chicago White Sox wasted no time installing newly acquired Tim Raines in the leadoff spot, and Raines can't wait for the season to start. He has spent most of his career at the top of the order, but Montreal Expos manager Buck Rodgers decided three years ago to move him into the No. 3 spot. Raines hasn't been the same player since. "I think it's something I wish never happened," he told the Tampa Tribune. "Leadoff position is something I know and I know well. For seven years, I was on the All-Star team as a leadoff man, not as a No. 3 hitter. Now, I'm getting a chance to go back to something I'm more familiar with and utilize all my talents. Not just a guy they want to drive runs in, but a guy who can get on, steal bases and score runs."
Surprise, surprise: Rickey Henderson was a no-show at the Oakland Athletics' first full-squad workout. He signed a four-year, $12 million contract last year, and has been trying to renegotiate it ever since. There apparently is no honor among base thieves.