Worthington to stay in minors, giving Gomez 3rd

June 30, 1991|By Kent Baker

For now, Leo Gomez is the man.

The Baltimore Orioles yesterday decided to option Craig Worthington to the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings, where his 20-day rehabilitation assignment expires today.

That left the third-base job clearly in the hands of Gomez, who replaced Worthington when the latter went down with a hamstring injury.

Efforts to trade Worthington, the same type of one-position player as Gomez, have been unsuccessful. As Orioles manager John Oates said: "You can't make somebody make a trade with you."

So, the Orioles decided not to recall The Sporting News 1989 Rookie of the Year, instead leaving him at Class AAA, where general manager Roland Hemond said "he is coming along OK, hitting over .300."

In Oates' mind, both players will be playing instead of sitting, and Worthington can "continue to develop value for us or somebody else. He's healthy, I know that, but he's been taking himself out of some games."

Dividing time in the majors early on did not benefit either player, and Gomez has flourished since his return from the minors.

"You can't just give Worthy away for nothing," said Oates. "I don't think we should take a broken bat for him. He's a major-league third baseman.

"If one of them were a utility player, we could do other things with them. But they are so much alike. Sooner or later, this will work itself out. It always has."

"Whatever they say, I don't worry about it," said Gomez, who has been the Orioles' regular third baseman since June 6. "I think I'm doing my job whatever they decide."

Gomez has been a steady performer since Worthington was injured, with a surprisingly strong showing on defense.

"It was hard for me at the beginning of the season," Gomez said. "Play once or twice a week and I know if I don't do my job today, I can't do it tomorrow because I won't be in there. Now, I'm more comfortable."

Gomez hit only .222 in 17 games before being optioned to the Red Wings after a month.

But since Oates assured him of an everyday job, Gomez has reached base in 18 of 20 games and has 12 RBI.

The defense is a source of pride for him.

"I come in almost every day and take ground balls for 15 minutes," he said. "The couple of errors I made were on tough plays, almost base hits. I work because I don't want to be a guy who hits .300 and makes 75 errors."

He said Oates and the coaches help him immensely from the dugout with positioning.

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