The Orioles have signed reserve catcher Jeff Tackett and pitcher Francisco de la Rosa to 1992 contracts, but five of the club's six arbitration-eligible players remain unsigned.
Tackett, 26, appeared briefly in the major leagues last year, getting into six games and managing a hit and two walks in 10 plate appearances. His role is expected to increase in the wake of the December trade of veteran catcher Bob Melvin to the Kansas City Royals for pitcher Storm Davis, though the recent return of veteran backup Rick Dempsey has clouded the catching picture.
de la Rosa, 25, who led the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings with a 2.67 ERA in 38 games last year, spent the final month of the season with the Orioles, but was limited to two appearances by recurrent back spasms. His chances of starting the 1992 season on the major-league staff appear to be slight.
The Orioles continue to negotiate with the five players who are headed toward salary arbitration, but club president Larry Lucchino said this week that the team may not be able to head off all the hearings.
He would not say who was least likely to settle before hearings, but it seems logical that the players with the largest salary gaps -- first baseman Randy Milligan and pitcher Bob Milacki -- figure to be the toughest to sign.
Milligan filed for a $1.4 million salary, $500,000 more than the Orioles offered. Milacki asked for $1.18 million, $480,000 more than the club's offer.
In addition to Milligan and Milacki, the club has arbitration dates with designated hitter Sam Horn, centerfielder Mike Devereaux and second baseman Bill Ripken.
The Orioles traditionally avoid arbitration, in many recent cases by splitting the difference between their offer and the player's demand. They did that with Brady Anderson this month, but he and the club were only $90,000 apart to begin with.