Orioles' trade adds to crowded outfield Infielder Scarsone goes to Giants for Leonard

March 21, 1993|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG FLORIDA — ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Just when it looked as if they were ready to clarify the situation, the Orioles added another piece to their right-field puzzle yesterday.

Utility infielder Steve Scarsone was traded to the San Francisco Giants for Mark Leonard, a left-handed hitting outfielder with impressive minor-league credentials. General manager Roland Hemond and manager Johnny Oates both said Leonard would be given a chance in the next two weeks to win a regular job.

The trade was made barely 48 hours after Oates said he was satisfied with the candidates he had in right field. Oates basically said that the job belonged to Chito Martinez until somebody took it away. Yesterday, the Orioles added a player they said has a chance to do just that.

"We've been coveting Leonard for some time," said Hemond, "but [former Giants general manager Al] Rosen wouldn't part with him."

Bob Quinn, Rosen's replacement, didn't have any reservations, despite the fact that the Giants are in the market for an outfielder. The Giants apparently felt a sense of urgency to make the trade because of injuries to second basemen Robby Thompson and John Patterson, and the release of utility infielder Dave Anderson.

Leonard, who will be 29 in August, has a career .319 average in the minor leagues, with 75 home runs in 578 games. In three different trials with the Giants, with no more than 129 at-bats in a season (274 total), he has a .234 average, with seven home runs and 32 RBI.

"We wanted to get the deal done early, so he [Leonard] could get some exposure here, get into the battle [for the right-field job]," said Hemond. "There are still two weeks to go -- Sam Horn made it in two days [in 1990], right?"

Oates was noncommittal about what impact the trade would have on Martinez. "I don't know if it will affect Chito or not," said Oates. "I'm just going to wait and watch him [Leonard] play."

Oates dismissed the notion that there didn't appear to be room for Martinez and Leonard.

"Let's not make any assumptions for two more weeks," he said. "I might want a left-handed hitter on the bench. Right now I don't have one."

Oates reiterated that Martinez still had first claim in right field, but qualified it by saying: "Unless he [Leonard] comes in and changes my mind."

The reports on Leonard are conflicting, but Oates said "he comes highly recommended. He's hit 75 home runs in the minor leagues and he had 50 doubles one year [with Single-A San Jose]."

Scarsone, who was bidding for a job as a utility infielder, was hitting .318 (7-for-22), but had not played well defensively. He seemed stunned by the trade.

"I'm trying not to be emotional right now," said Scarsone. "I'll see how things set up over there -- I know some of the guys."

Scarsone played in the Arizona Fall League for Giants manager Dusty Baker, who told The Sacramento (Calif.) Bee, "He can really turn the double play."

Scarsone said: "My chances are probably a little better over there. But I was very comfortable here -- my month in September [after he was recalled from Triple-A Rochester] was probably the most fun I've ever had in baseball."

Although the trade for Leonard does not affect the Orioles' possible platoon in right field, it makes the area even more crowded. There are now eight players who could be used at the position.

That number almost certainly will be reduced soon, because there won't be enough playing time to go around. Luis Mercedes remains a strong candidate to be traded, with the Florida Marlins one of the teams known to be interested.

Meanwhile, Leonard will join the Orioles tomorrow and is scheduled to play Tuesday.

"I'm a little surprised, but I hope it's a good opportunity for me," Leonard told The Bee. "I thought I had a role here as a left-handed hitter off the bench. I had an option left, so they [the Giants] didn't have to do it. But they did, and I'm looking at it as a chance to play more. Rollie Hemond said he was happy to have me."

Leonard's absence from the Giants virtually assures a job for non-roster outfielder Mark Carreon, who bats right-handed. Switch hitter Todd Benzinger will be the prime left-handed pinch hitter.

Baker said: "We're going to miss Leo. I'm happy about his opportunity. The Orioles wanted Leo for two years. We've been deep in outfielders since he's been here."

@

Leonard's stats

Yr. Team .. .. .. AB .. .. .. HR .. .. .. RBI .. .. .. Avg.

'86 Tri-Cities .. 128 .. .. . 4 ... .. .. 17 .. .. ... .258

'87 Clinton .. .. 413 .. .. . 15 .. .. .. 80 .. .. ... .320

'88 San Jose .. . 510 .. .. . 15 .. .. .. 118 .. .. .. .345

'89 Shreveport .. 219 .. .. . 10 .. .. .. 52 .. .. ... .311

... Phoenix .. .. 78 .. .. .. 0 .. .. ... 6 .. .. .. . .269

'90 Phoenix .. .. 360 .. .. . 18 .. .. .. 75 .. .. ... .339

... San Fran. ... 17 .. .. .. 1 .. .. .. 2 .. .. .. .. .176

'91 San Fran. ... 129 .. .. . 2 .. .. .. 14 .. .. .. . .240

... Phoenix .. .. 146 .. .... 8 .. .. .. 25 .. .. .. . .253

'92 San Fran. ... 128 .. .. . 4 .. .. .. 16 .. .. .. . .243

.. Phoenix .. ... 139 .. .. . 5 .. .. .. 25 .. .. .. . .338

ML totals .. .. . 274 .. .. . 7 .. .. .. 32 .. .. .. . .234

5/8

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