Capable Hulett positioned for a future Draft not a concern of Orioles utility man

September 19, 1992|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

MILWAUKEE -- The November expansion draft has clouded the future for hundreds of major-league players, but Orioles utility man Tim Hulett chooses to look at it from a more positive perspective.

Expansion means employment. The expansion draft means that 26 teams will be two or three players thinner next spring.

"It's not unsettling to me at all," said Hulett, who made a spot start at third base last night in the opener of a four-game series with the Milwaukee Brewers at County Stadium. "I don't think that it [expansion] will affect me, except in that it will create more jobs."

Hulett is not looking for a job at the moment, and the Orioles are not looking to replace him. He entered last night's start batting .288 and has a .481 average with runners in scoring position. The club holds an option on his contract for 1993, but being a utility player means never having to say that your place on the roster is secure.

"I think you always feel vulnerable," Hulett said. "You feel you've got to make a club every year."

The addition of two teams increases the likelihood of that, but it also presents the possibility that Hulett will be plucked by the Florida Marlins or Denver Rockies in the latter stages of the 72-player draft. He is not a marquee caliber player, but he could provide some stability on a team looking to get its feet on the ground.

The concept doesn't really appeal to Hulett, who has gotten comfortable in his role with the Orioles. He figures to be back next year -- if manager Johnny Oates has his way -- unless he is selected in the draft.

"I just don't see that happening," Hulett said. "I know the people in Miami. Dave Dombrowski knows me from when I was in Chicago. I think they know what kind of person I am, but I really don't see me being an expansion pick.

"I don't want to sound like I'm demeaning my own skills, but a lot of people think that if they have a surplus at one position, they can go with the extra player in a utility role -- though they might be surprised to find that it isn't that simple."

Oates does not belong in that category. He has spent the club's surprising 1992 season illustrating the importance of skilled, dependable role players. Hulett is at the top of the list. He is a solid defensive player at second and third base as well as a stubborn contact hitter with surprising pop in his bat.

He has one other quality that has endeared him to his manager. He knows his role, and he isn't pretending to be anything other than a professional utility man.

"That's the kind of guy who will always have a job," Oates said. "He's a guy who when he ceased to be an everyday player, he recognized it. He just handles his job very well.

"There have to be people on the ballclub like him," Oates added. "I certainly would be short-changing our ballclub if I didn't keep a good player just because he didn't agree with the way I handled him, but Timmy falls into two categories. He doesn't give me any trouble, and he does the job."

Hulett entered last night's game with 111 at-bats. But that does not necessarily reflect his value to the club.

"I try to let him know where he stands with me," Oates said, "so there is no insecurity on Tim's part. He knows he has done his job, and he has done it well."

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