It's beginning to look as if the opening of Oriole Park at Camden Yards could be as much of a reunion as a happening.
The exhibition game against the New York Mets will be Eddie Murray's first appearance in uniform in Baltimore since he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Dec. 4, 1988.
And the official opening against the Cleveland Indians three days later likely will feature the return of "The Whammer."
Jim Traber, a left-handed hitter who got his first extended major-league exposure because of an injury to Murray in 1986, has a chance to win a Cleveland roster spot because of injuries to Reggie Jefferson, a prospect obtained from the Cincinnati Reds last year, and rookie Jim Thome.
But Traber's fortunes might have changed for the worse yesterday with the Indians' acquisition of left-handed hitting first baseman Paul Sorrento from the Minnesota Twins. Sorrento, 26, spent parts of the past three seasons with the Twins, batting .211 with nine home runs.
Traber, trying to return to the big leagues after two seasons in Japan, has three hits, including two doubles, in his first 24 exhibition at-bats.
If Traber follows Murray home, the opening of the park could look like a family reunion. Among others likely to return are catcher Rick Dempsey, if he makes the Orioles; Hank Peters, former Orioles general manager and current Indians president emeritus; and ex-Orioles third-base coach John Hart, who succeeded Peters as Indians GM.
Nothing To Dibble over: The Cincinnati Reds invested a lot of players and money to improve their starting pitching last winter. The addition of Tim Belcher, Greg Swindell and Scott Bankhead required bold moves by general manager Bob Quinn.
However, the two most important pitchers on the staff are still starter Jose Rijo and closer Rob Dibble. The Reds say they are not overly concerned about the shoulder tendinitis that will sideline Dibble for at least the first week of the season. What is bothersome is that the right-handed fastball pitcher struggled some during the second half last year.
Belcher averaged 6 1/3 innings in 33 starts for the Dodgers last year. Swindell, who allowed more than a hit per inning in 1991, went almost an inning longer in the same number of starts -- primarily because he was easily the best the struggling Indians had to offer.
Rijo remains the closest the Reds have to a workhorse starter. None of the additions figures to keep manager Lou Piniella out of the bullpen. However, if Bankhead stays healthy, he could help in relief. He had the best success against hitters leading off an inning (.140 average) in the American League last year.
But Dibble is the key. If he's healthy, the Reds could have an awesome pitching staff. If he's not -- and his possibly spending the first month on the disabled list has to make the Reds uncomfortable -- the off-season moves to bolster the pitching staff may be for naught.
Inky the Invisible: Scouts working the Florida training camps are having a hard time recognizing Pete Incaviglia as he tries to win a spot with the Houston Astros.
"Inky" has practically melted away to nothing, having dropped 40 pounds to 210. "Nobody really told me I was out of shape before," said Incaviglia. "Nobody said, 'Kid you're going to be a great player -- lose 30 pounds.'
"I have so much more energy now. I'm not lazy or slow. My reflexes are back."
Incaviglia is also back with hitting instructor Art Howe. The two were together with the Texas Rangers before Howe left to become Astros manager and before Incaviglia was released.
It's hard to believe nobody ever told Incaviglia to drop a few tTC pounds, but he seems to think his career is rejuvenated. He derived a lot of pleasure from a recent duel with ex-Oriole Mike Boddicker, now with the Kansas City Royals.
"He threw me a fastball inside and I hit it down the [left-field] line," said Incaviglia. Afterward, Boddicker made a trip to the Astros clubhouse. "I don't know what I'm going to do with you -- I used to be able to jam you," Boddicker told Incaviglia, one of the many major-league players trying to win a job while signed to a Triple-A contract.
No move's a good move: The Montreal Expos have a couple of apparent examples why the best trades often are the ones that aren't made.
One the Rangers shouldn't have made was the deal that brought them Oil Can Boyd late last season. Boyd was a bust, as the Rangers made a desperate bid to win the American League West.
One of the players the Rangers sent to Montreal in exchange for Boyd is Jon Hurst, who was a combined 15-3 at three minor-league levels a year ago, including a 5-0 mark with an 0.86 ERA with the Double-A Harrisburg Senators. Hurst is on the verge of beating out Brian Barnes and Chris Haney (son of former Orioles catcher Larry Haney) for the fifth spot in the Expos rotation.