Outfielder Joe Orsulak and relief pitcher Mike Flanagan filed for free agency yesterday, but both players figure to be in limbo until after the Nov. 17 expansion draft.
A very large free-agent field is beginning to take shape. The 33 players who filed yesterday brought the total to 59, including such stars as Mark McGwire, Ruben Sierra and Barry Bonds.
Orsulak has made it clear that he would like to remain with the Orioles, but he and agent Ron Shapiro are preparing for a long and uncertain winter.
"From what I understand, I don't think they are going to be talking to me or Ron at least until after the draft, if at all," Orsulak said. "I love playing for the Orioles. We have our home here and we like it here, but you have to go where you're wanted. I don't really know what their feelings are. It's a matter of whether they want me or not."
The Orioles made it known Monday that they did not intend to bring Flanagan back. The club chose not to exercise an option on his contract for 1993 and told him that it would not offer him salary arbitration, so he immediately became eligible to file for free agency.
The club has not said whether it will attempt to re-sign Orsulak, who has a .281 batting average in five seasons with the Orioles. He came to Baltimore in a trade that sent minor-leaguers Terry Crowley Jr. and Rico Rossy to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1987 and has played an average of 122 games for the Orioles.
He made $1.3 million in the second year of a two-year contract in 1992, a season in which he batted .289 with four home runs and 39 RBI in 391 at-bats. Orsulak has proved to be a capable hitter and a solid outfielder, but it remains to be seen whether the club will show serious interest in re-signing him.
"I'm getting in shape to play baseball somewhere next year," Orsulak said. "I don't have control over anything else. I'm not worrying about it. I'm just going about my business. I've never signed a contract this early, anyway."
Shapiro indicated that there has been little significant contact with the Orioles concerning Orsulak's possible return next year, but that is not surprising. The uncertainty created by the National League expansion draft could keep the game in gridlock for the next three weeks.
"Obviously, the clubs are not going to want to talk a lot right now," he said.
The Orioles do not have a heavy free-agent docket. Pitcher Rick Sutcliffe has filed. Reliever Pat Clements also is eligible to file before the free-agent filing period ends Nov. 9.
Three other decisions are due by tomorrow. The club must decide whether to offer salary arbitration to pitchers Craig Lefferts and Storm Davis. It seems more likely that both will be allowed to become free agents. The Orioles also must decide whether to exercise a contract option on utility player Tim Hulett. He seems much more likely to be back.