CLEARWATER, FLA — CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Orioles waived veteran outfielder Dwight Evans yesterday for the purpose of giving him his unconditional release and for the purpose of clearing some space on their crowded roster.
The move also was for the purpose of avoiding another year of Evans' uncertain medical status. He apparently had too many strikes against him to escape the club's first significant roster cut of the spring.
General manager Roland Hemond met with Evans yesterday morning and informed him that he no longer fit into the club's plans, eventhough Evans did seem to fit the job description that manager John Oates had outlined for him when he re-signed with the team in December. The roster apparently was just too crowded.
"If Dwight had stayed here much longer," Hemond said, "that would have taken at-bats from Randy Milligan, who needs some at-bats to get ready, and Sam Horn, who is about ready to come back [from a hamstring injury]. And John has expressed the desire to play Chito [Martinez] against both right- and left-handed pitching."
Oates, however, would not tie the move to any of the other decisions facing him this spring. He said that the decision to waive Evans was based almost entirely on his recent medical history, which suggests the possibility that his availability would have been limited again this year.
"I told him I needed someone I could depend on every day," Oates said. "I respect what he has done. He is a class act. Through no fault of his own, he had the calf problem earlier, and he had a stiff hamstring yesterday. In the role he was in, I've got to have someone who is going to be ready every night if I need him."
Evans was projected to be a sometime outfielder, part-time designated hitter and full-time pinch-hit specialist, but there was not room for him and promising David Segui, who figures to play more in the outfield and spend less time in the training room. Milligan is assured of being in the lineup more regularly, and Martinez probably will not have to share time with anyone in right field.
The logic of the decision was not lost on Evans, but the reality of it was still painful. He has been one of baseball's premier players for the past two decades and ranks high among active players in virtually every offensive category. Now, he must face the possibility that his career is over.
"It's a low point, no question," Evans said. "It's not a fun time, but I really feel something good will happen. The worst thing that can happen is that I can go home and watch my kids finish growing up. That would be a great blessing.
"Do I still want to play? Yes, I do. I don't know what the situatio is. We'll be talking to some clubs. I don't know what to say. I'm still trying to collect my thoughts. But I still think I can play."
He is a 19-year veteran who can make an argument for Hall o Fame consideration, but he would not argue with the direction the Orioles are taking.
"The only thing I really regret is that I wasn't younger and more in my prime when I came here, so I could show the people in Baltimore -- who are some of the greatest fans in the world -- the way I can play," Evans said. "To play on a championship team there must have been great. We stunk last year, and we still drew an average of 31,000 per game."
Evans has to wait out the three-day waiver period before he is eligible to sign with another club. The Chicago White Sox showed substantial interest in him before the 1991 season and ** might have a need now that injured designated hitter Bo Jackson is no longer in the picture. The Red Sox are another possibility, with first baseman Carlos Quintana sidelined for an extended period after an auto accident.
By waiving Evans so early in the spring, the Orioles will save about $750,000. Evans' $900,000 salary was not guaranteed, so he is entitled to about one sixth of that amount (slightly less than $150,000) in severance pay. Had he remained on the roster through Wednesday, he would have received about $225,000. The deadline for waiving a player without being responsible for his entire salary is April 1.
"It was a hard decision," club president Larry Lucchino said. "The man has been a sensational baseball player and a real good person. But the idea was, we have to move to the next stage of spring training. There were four other moves [players reassigned to the minor leagues]. You want to clear some room. There are young players who need at-bats. We needed to give them a chance to play, so it's sort of unclogging the system."
The club could have waited a few more days without incurring any added cost, but Lucchino said that the decision was made earlier out of deference to Evans.
"He had talked to Roland and expressed the desire that if we were going to make a decision on him, we would make it early," Lucchino said. "Part of it was for his benefit. We could have taken it right to the limit, but he wanted an early decision."