FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Kevin Hickey left the Orioles' camp with a bitter taste after his release yesterday. "I'm going to write a book about how much I hate this game -- and the people in it," the lefthander said sarcastically when asked what his plans were.
"You can't tell me I didn't throw the ball good enough to make this team," said Hickey, who had a 2.25 earned run average. He allowed nine hits in eight innings, striking out five and walking six in six appearances this spring.
"It came down to the fact that they didn't want to pay me, so they released me," said Hickey, who had signed a contract for $250,000. He will receive 45 days salary (approximately $62,500) as severance. "Then they offered me a job in Double A if nothing works out.
"It all boils down to Joe Price [who is signed to a Rochester contract] coming back in a couple of weeks. What do they think, that I'm stupid?"
* REST FOR REGULARS: At the end of what has been a difficult exhibition schedule, manager Frank Robinson has been liberal in granting rest to the Orioles' regulars.
Everybody got a break in the last two days, being excused from one game, and most will be given off tonight, when the Orioles face the Expos in West Palm Beach.
In the final game in Florida tomorrow night, against the Yankees, Robinson will use his regular lineup for most of the game. There will be a light workout at Memorial Stadium Friday morning before the Orioles finish their preseason with games against Boston in Washington's RFK Stadium Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
* PITCHING PROBABLES: Jeff Ballard gets his final tuneup for Opening Day in tonight's game. Jose Mesa, the likely starter in the regular season's second game a week from tonight, will face the Yankees tomorrow night (7:35, ESPN, WBAL-AM 1090).
* ROSTER UPDATE: After the release of Hickey, Daniel Boone, John Mitchell and the decision not to keep Larry Sheets, the Orioles have 31 players left in camp. Robinson already has said Luis Mercedes will go to Rochester and David Segui, who has performed well while experimenting in the outfield, most likely will go with him.
Righthander Roy Smith and lefthander Paul Kilgus are already on the Rochester roster, and expected to stay there at least for the time being. Ernie Whitt, the third non-roster player left, and either Tim Hulett or Jeff McKnight are expected to fill the final spots after Robinson decides between Craig Worthington and Leo Gomez at third base.
Boone, the 37-year-old lefthanded knuckleballer the Orioles signed out of the Senior League a year ago, probably will get picked up. "I would be surprised if somebody doesn't give him a job," said general manager Roland Hemond. "A few clubs had expressed interest in him, and with several young lefthanders [in the organization] this is the best thing for him."
* THIS 'N THAT: Worthington, who appears to have successfully defended his position after a strong challenge by Gomez, has hit safely in 10 of his last 11 games.
Worthington, Bill Ripken and Mike Devereaux continued their torrid hitting in yesterday's win over the Braves. Worthington (.321) and Devereaux (.393) each went 2-for-3 and Ripken (.310) was 3-for-4.
Randy Milligan took over the club home run leadership with four, hitting a two-run shot, and Bob Melvin hit his second, a three-run homer.
Atlanta catcher Mike Heath got into a verbal battle with Robinson after the eighth inning yesterday. "He was yelling at Bob Melvin [apparently about two checked-swing third strikes]," said Robinson. "He had his head in our dugout, so I just told him 'If you want a piece of somebody over here, come on over.' " Heath's response: "Suppose I want a piece of you?" End of conversation.