Journeymen like prospects with O's 4 veterans hope they can pitch in

February 23, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Orioles camp isn't exactly the land of opportunity, not with nine pitching spots spoken for and 11 candidates set to compete during the next six weeks for the final one or two openings.

But for four journeyman pitchers, this could be the chance of a lifetime.

* Right-hander Mike Cook, 29, has been to the major leagues with the California Angels and the Minnesota Twins, but he never stayed around long enough to make a real impression.

* Left-hander Jamie Moyer, 30, has had significant major-league experience with the Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals, but is fighting to keep his career alive.

* Left-hander Steve Searcy, 28, was once a promising prospect with the Detroit Tigers, but his career detoured through the Philadelphia Phillies' and Los Angeles Dodgers' minor-league systems on the way to the Orioles.

* Left-hander Wayne Edwards, 28, had a two-year run with the Chicago White Sox, but he has spent much of the past two seasons at Triple-A.

The Orioles signed each to a minor-league contract in the hope that one might step forward this spring. Each would like to be that guy, though it also is possible that all four could end up starting the season with the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings.

The list of candidates does not stop there. It doesn't even start there. The early favorites in the fifth-starter derby are right-handed reliever Mark Williamson and longtime Orioles prospect Anthony Telford. The four newcomers assure that the club will have minor-league depth throughout the season, but they have been promised nothing.

"I'm just looking at them with an open mind," said pitching coach Dick Bosman. "It's a good situation. Every year, the talent level gets better and there's more of it. The competition that it creates is healthy. You know that you won't just be filling the last spot. That last spot is going to be earned."

That last spot probably will go to the pitcher who proves to Bosman and manager Johnny Oates that he can pitch effectively as a spot starter and out of the bullpen. The Orioles are looking for a swingman more than a fifth starter, because the number of opportunities for a fifth starter will be sparse during the early weeks of the season.

No one is ready to handicap the field of newcomers, but it appears that Cook is getting most of the early attention -- even though he was a late addition to the list of non-roster invitees. He dominated the Puerto Rican Winter League this year, giving up just four runs in 85 innings (0.42 ERA) to help lead Santurce to victory in the Caribbean Series.

He signed with the Orioles early in the off-season, but was not promised an invitation to spring camp. He was not considered to be a serious candidate for the major-league staff until the glowing reports began to filter back from Puerto Rico.

"There's no doubt about it, that made a difference," Cook said. "I called my agent and had him ask them [the Orioles] to reconsider."

Fred Uhlman Sr., special assistant to general manager Roland Hemond, went to the Caribbean Series to scout Cook and came back with the opinion that Cook might be able to help the major-league club. He has worked as a starter and a reliever in the eight professional seasons since he was signed by the Angels in 1985, so he fits the team's needs, but he is taking an unassuming approach to the auditions.

"I'm not setting my sights on being the fifth starter," he said. "I'm just trying to open some eyes, and then if I do, maybe sometime during the year I can get called up."

Moyer is taking a similar approach. He signed with the club knowing that there might be an opening in the rotation, but he came to camp hoping to show that he can fill whatever role presents itself. He broke into the major leagues as a starter with the Cubs, only to slip back into the minors.

"I'm not going to worry about where I pitch," he said. "They did me a favor inviting me here, so I'll pretty much do anything they ask me to do. I've done both [starting and relieving]. I would just like to be able to contribute and add something to this ballclub.

"I really don't know what their needs are. I don't know if that's what they are looking at me as. It's up to Johnny and Dick. I know I can pitch, so it's a matter of doing what I can do. I can't worry about what Rick Sutcliffe does or Steve Searcy or anybody else."

Searcy is taking a more aggressive posture. He has been shuttling back and forth between the major and minor leagues for the past five years, but he seems certain that his luck is about to change. The odds are he'll start at Rochester, but he's not ready to concede anything yet.

"I'm not planning on going anywhere," Searcy said. "That's not being cocky. If you come in and say I'm going to be starting at Rochester, you're beaten out of the box. I'm not going to be satisfied starting at Rochester. . . . I just feel you have to have a very positive attitude."

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