McCaskill's list includes Orioles Free-agent pitcher, team begin talks

BASEBALL

November 17, 1991|By PETER SCHMUCK

Free-agent pitcher Kirk McCaskill has begun listening to proposals, and he appears to be very interested in what Baltimore -- both the city and its baseball team -- might have to offer.

Baltimore Orioles officials have said privately that they are very interested in McCaskill. Preliminary negotiations apparently have begun.

"I'm definitely looking at other teams," said McCaskill, who has spent the past 6 1/2 seasons in the California Angels' starting rotation, "and I've heard a lot of nice things about Baltimore."

The Orioles have made no secret of their desire to add an experienced starter to the club's youthful rotation. McCaskill, despite an uncharacteristic 10-19 season, is high on their list. The question is whether they will make more of an effort this winter than they did when they went shopping for a free-agent pitcher a year ago.

His 1991 record was deceptive. With even modest run support, he might have won 15 games. His ERA (4.26) was a half-run higher than his career mark, and it still would have placed him third among the nine pitchers who spent significant time in the Orioles rotation last year.

He also is a solid citizen who sponsors a foundation to feed the hungry in Southern California. He would fit right in with Cal Ripken and Glenn Davis.

The negotiating season is upon us, which means that you'll be hearing a lot more about McCaskill and other free agents as the Orioles attempt to retool for 1992. It will not be easy to separate specifics from speculation, but it appears that McCaskill will sign with an East Coast team if the Angels continue to equivocate about re-signing him.

"They have told me that they want to re-sign me," he said in a telephone interview Friday, "but we haven't really talked."

There are several possible reasons for that. For one, McCaskill's agent, Marvin Demoff, has been preoccupied with another client -- suspended Indianapolis Colts running back Eric Dickerson. For another, Angels president Richard Brown spent the past week on the club's annual cruise. Then there is always the possibility that the Angels are just saying that they want to re-sign McCaskill while waiting for him to make a quiet exit.

The Orioles can only hope. They are examining other possibilities, including left-hander Jim Deshaies and right-handers Bob Walk and Orel Hershiser, but McCaskill seems like the best fit.

*

Welcome to Jerry Reinsdorf's nightmare. The Chicago Cubs announced Thursday that they had kicked Jim Frey upstairs and hired former Chicago White Sox general manager Larry Himes to be the club's general manager.

Reinsdorf, the White Sox owner, fired Himes a year or so ago. He has set himself up for a major second-guess if Himes finds a way to get the Cubs into the playoffs ahead of their cross-town rivals. The scenario could get even more interesting if the Cubs were to go down to the wire with the New York Mets, who now are managed by former White Sox skipper Jeff Torborg.

Some White Sox watchers still wonder why Himes was fired in the first place. His long-range planning carried the club into contention, and his four first-round draft choices -- Jack McDowell, Robin Ventura, Frank Thomas and Alex Fernandez -- are helping the team at the major-league level.

Now Himes has a chance to haunt his former employer and become a Loop legend at the same time. All he has to do is get the struggling Cubs into the World Series for the first time since 1945. How tough can that be?

*

With the appropriate apologies to talk-show host and noted fungo hitter David Letterman, here's my top 10 list of reasons the Orioles still are searching for a new permanent spring training site:

10. No rush. Club still needs 10,000 Greyhound Frequent Traveler points to qualify for microwave oven.

9. Negotiations with officials from Naples hung up because of language barrier.

8. Naples site already slated for Ben McDonald alligator petting zoo.

7. Former sponsor Florida Rock turned out to be a failing FM radio station.

6. Florida judge to Orioles: "Read my lips. No new tourist tax."

5. Local residents must decide between Orioles training site and toxic-waste dump. Debate could last months.

4. Orioles made mistake of showing 1991 highlight video to Naples city council before zoning decision.

3. Zoning vote went against Orioles, 3-2 -- the club's 36th one-run loss of the season.

2. Local politicians concerned about possibility of Audubon Society protests if club doesn't abandon demeaning ornithological nickname and trademarks.

1. Team, city can't agree on name of facility.

*

The return of Davis (who never actually left) leaves the Orioles' other first baseman, Randy Milligan, to look forward to another uncertain off-season.

Milligan was pushed into left field when the Orioles traded three of their top prospects to the Houston Astros for Davis in January. He returned to first base in late April when Davis was out with a freak neck injury.

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