Obando could be right for O's outfield Rule V draftee balances left-handed sluggers

January 28, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

The door seems to have closed on dozens of major-league players this winter, but a previously unknown minor-league outfielder by the name of Sherman Obando might have found a window of opportunity in Baltimore.

Obando, who was chosen by the Orioles last month in the Rule V draft, arrived here yesterday to take part in winter workouts at Camden Yards. He seemed to have come to a dead end in the New York Yankees organization, but Orioles officials give him a real chance to win a major-league job this spring.

They have to. That's the whole point of the Rule V draft, which was set up to protect players who otherwise might get buried in the minor leagues. The Orioles paid $50,000 to the Yankees for Obando, and they must keep him in the majors all year or offer him back to the Yankees for half of the draft price.

"I was waiting for that," said Obando, a right-handed power hitter. "When I got drafted by the Orioles, I was very happy. They are going to give me an opportunity. Hopefully, I'll be able to take advantage."

Rule V draftees -- almost by definition -- are decided long shots. The Orioles chose outfielder Darrell Sherman a year ago and eventually sent him back to the San Diego Padres. The last Rule V player to make the club was pitcher Mike Smith, who was taken in the 1988 draft. Chances are Obando will be offered back to the Yankees after spring training, but at least he's getting a chance.

"I don't know what I would have had to do to make it there," Obando said. "Last year, they had guys like Hensley Meulens and Bernie Williams, so they had me working out to see if I could play first base. I doubt I would have had much of a chance [this spring]."

The Orioles went to the winter meetings in search of outfield help. They pondered an offer to free agent Andre Dawson, but were unable to come back with an established player. They came back with Obando, 22, instead and added him to a list of right-field candidates that already included Chito Martinez and Luis Mercedes. The situation became more complicated when the club acquired veteran outfielder/designated hitter Harold Baines, but Obando still will get a long look.

He might have a lot to offer. He hit 17 home runs at Double-A Albany-Colonie last year, despite a broken hand that cost him nearly two months. If he can hit the long ball against major-league pitching, he could provide a balance of power in what otherwise would be a predominantly left-handed outfield.

That's the idea, at least. The Orioles have two full-time outfielders in Brady Anderson and Mike Devereaux. Of the five other viable candidates, Obando is the only right-handed power threat. The other right-handed candidates, Mercedes and switch-hitting David Segui, are not major home-run hitters.

Obando has not been waiting around to see how things turn out. He spent part of his off-season in Venezuela, playing winter ball for the Tigres de Aragua. That's where he was when he learned that he finally would be getting his chance to win a place in the major leagues.

"I was at the hospital with my wife," he said. "That day we found out she was pregnant. We went back to the hotel to celebrate, and there was a message I got drafted by the Orioles. I was very happy."

* Second baseman Harold Reynolds already is making major overtures to the community. He has invited 1,000 teen-agers to a "Super Bowl Bash" on Sunday at the Living Word Christian Center at 5818 Reistertown Road.

Teen-agers from seven Baltimore high schools were invited, but the event will be open to any interested teens who want to watch the game and have refreshments with Reynolds. Schmidt's Baking, Mrs. Ihrie's Chips, The Price Club, Merry-Go-Round, McDonald's, Nabisco, Grand Caterers, Sweetheart Cup and Hillshire Farms are aiding the event.

"I believe teens get into trouble because they have nothing to do," Reynolds said. "The Super Bowl Bash gives them a chance to meet new friends in a great environment."

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