SARASOTA, Fla. -- Non-roster invitee Rick Dempsey has fired the first real shot in the battle for the No. 2 catching job.
Dempsey hammered a bases-empty home run off relief stopper Gregg Olson yesterday in the seventh inning of the Orioles' first intrasquad game of spring training.
It wasn't exactly the shot heard 'round the world, but it was the kind of first impression that Dempsey, 42, needs to make if he is to beat out Triple-A prospect Jeff Tackett and stick with the major-league club.
"I don't know if it really matters," said Dempsey. "You'd have to ask the manager. It will help me get comfortable quicker, but it doesn't get me anything. I still have to take it a day at a time and all the other cliches. I didn't beat anybody but the other team, which was made up of my guys."
Dempsey's home run did not affect the outcome of his team's 5-4 loss, but manager John Oates would not discount its possible effect on the outcome of the catching competition.
"I think it's particularly important for anyone who is battling for a job to make an impression on me," he said. "I don't care if it's catching batting practice or playing in an intrasquad game. Anything you do -- positive or negative -- is going to stick in my mind. Everything is going to have an effect on my decision."
Dempsey and Tackett are the two main contenders for the reserve catching role, though non-roster invitee Mark Parent also is getting a look this spring. There are two other catchers in camp, but minor-leaguers Cesar Devares and Mark Lehman are not considered serious contenders for a major-league job.
The Orioles play their second intrasquad game today at Twin Lakes Park before breaking camp and moving to their temporary home in St. Petersburg to open the exhibition season tomorrow.