WASHINGTON -- The Orioles will make their final three roster cuts today, but only one involves the Big Decision.
To keep Rick Dempsey, one of the most popular Orioles in history, or rookie Jeff Tackett, who has had a far superior spring at the plate, as the second catcher -- that is the question.
Manager John Oates is finding it difficult to make up his mind as the deadline nears.
"Under normal circumstances, this would be a very easy decision," he said. "But these are not normal circumstances. I'm going home to think about it and I've been thinking about it for two months."
Dempsey, 42, is aching to return to the scene of his greatest years and play in Oriole Park at Camden Yards before an adoring public.
Tackett, who hit .438 this spring, just wants to stick in the majors.
"I just come out each day with an open mind, and as long as I'm still here and things are going good, I can't complain," he said. "I did open some eyes, though. It's been nerve-wracking, but that's part of the game."
Tackett, 26, has always been regarded as a top-flight receiver, but he has hit above .239 only once in the minors since 1984.
"I've done everything they've asked me to in spring training," he said. "Catch, throw, hit and call games. My goal at the plate was to make more contact, and I did that."
He said he would like to play in the first game at the new park as he did in the final one at Memorial Stadium.
Two pitchers will also be sliced from the major-league roster, and the consensus is that they will be Jim Lewis and Alan Mills, who pitched one scoreless inning in yesterday's 4-3 loss to the Boston Red Sox.
Orioles pitching coach Dick Bosman, who started the final game at RFK Stadium for the Washington Senators in 1971, waxed a bit nostalgic when he returned to the scene yesterday.
"The last game here was very unsettling to me and Hondo [Frank Howard]," said Bosman. "We were upset about that and feeling genuinely bad for so may people, the fans and the friends we had made here.
"All I could visualize going to Texas was cactus and sand. It didn't turn out that way, but that's all we could think about that day. I didn't warm up in front of the stands like normal. I remember going out to the bullpen for the last time. It was very emotional."
Bosman didn't pitch well because he couldn't concentrate. He was trying too hard.
"There are so many things to remember about playing here," he said. "Getting lost in downtown. "Learning from Hondo how to be a professional. It bothers me that there's not a team here. Obviously, it can't happen now for a while."
Orsulak's paternity leave
Joe Orsulak missed the exhibition game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Friday because of the birth of his second son, Michael Steven.
Mother Adrianna and son are doing fine.
The Orioles finished the exhibition season with a 17-11-1 record, equaling the third-highest win total in their history. They set the record with 19 wins in 1969.
This was their most spring victories since 1975 when they were 18-9.
Small crowd at RFK
With a pre-game forecast for miserable weather and another game at RFK today (Red Sox-Philadelphia Phillies), yesterday's game drew 20,551.
That was the lowest total of the seven exhibitions they have played here since 1988. Previous low was 21,298 against St. Louis in 1990.
Number of tickets sold for each Orioles home game in April. A sellout at Oriole Park at Camden Yards is about 48,000. There are no tickets remaining for Opening Day.
Date.. .. .. ..Opponent.. .. ..Time.. .. .. ..Tickets sold
Wednesday.. .. Cleveland.. .. .7:35 p.m. .. .. .. ..32,000
Thursday.. .. .Cleveland.. .. .7:35 p.m. .. .. .. ..30,000
April 17.. .. .Detroit.. .. .. 7:35 p.m. .. .. .. ..30,600
April 18.. .. .Detroit.. .. .. 1:05 p.m. .. .. .. ..31,000
April 19.. .. .Detroit.. .. .. 1:35 p.m. .. .. .. ..32,000
April 20.. .. .Detroit.. .. .. 7:35 p.m. .. .. .. ..26,000