Martinez welcomes right-field foe Leonard

Orioles notebook

March 22, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Chito Martinez knows that the arrival of left-handed hitting outfielder Mark Leonard could impact his playing time, but he is not complaining about the deal that has complicated the right-field situation.

"I have no worries about that," Martinez said before yesterday's 2-0 exhibition loss to the New York Yankees. "All I can do is play hard and do my best. Whatever happens, happens."

Martinez actually is looking forward to seeing Leonard, who he has known for the past two years. The two met on a baseball cruise in 1991 and have stayed in touch ever since.

"He's a good friend of mine," Martinez said. "In fact, last year, we were talking about what it would be like if we were on the same team. As it turns out, we are on the same team."

They'll have to wait and see what it will be like. Manager Johnny Oates said again yesterday that Leonard will be given the chance to earn a place in the lineup, though he'll only have two weeks to audition.

Oates took Martinez aside to explain the situation, because the addition of a new outfield candidate is certain to affect his spring playing time.

"I told him I'm just going to set back the next two weeks and see what happens," Oates said. "[Leonard] is going to play some. I'm not saying he'll get all the innings the rest of the way, but he'll get his first start on Tuesday."

Leonard returned to his home in San Jose, Calif., after the deal was announced, but he is expected to arrive in St. Petersburg today.

Martinez guns down two

Martinez had a big day in the outfield against the Yankees. He gunned down two runners trying to turn singles into doubles and nearly got a third. His aggressive outfield play probably saved Rick Sutcliffe a run or two.

"It was nice of me to give him the opportunity to look so good," Sutcliffe joked afterward.

The rain man

Something Sutcliffe is less happy about is the fact he seems to be scheduled to pitch on every rainy day. The rains came again during his appearance yesterday, but he got his work in. He pitched five innings -- a couple of them in a steady drizzle -- and gave up two runs on eight hits.

Sutcliffe was rained out of an earlier start and had an appearance cut short by rain. This time, he made it through five innings, but struggled on the muddy mound.

Use him or lose him

Outfielder Sherman Obando remains a candidate for a share of the right-field job, but he apparently will have to win a regular job to remain in the Orioles' organization. There had been speculation that the club might keep him as a pinch hitter to avoid returning him to the Yankees' organization.

Obando, who was acquired in the Rule V draft, must be offered back to his original club and passed through waivers before he can be optioned to the minor leagues. Club officials are certain that if the Yankees do not take Obando back, another club will take him off waivers, but Oates said he will not try to hide Obando on the major-league roster.

"Either he can play or we give him back," Oates said. "It's tough to play 24 vs. 25. Maybe if you're a second division club you can do something like that, but not if you think you've got a chance to win. If he's on our club, at least at the beginning I'll give him the opportunity to play some."

Anywhere but Rochester

Outfielder Luis Mercedes has heard the rumors he'll be traded and he hopes something happens soon one way or the other. He wants to play in Baltimore, but he'd rather be traded than optioned back to the Rochester Red Wings again.

"I've had some good years down there, but I don't want to go back there," he said. "I want to play here. I think we've got a good team -- with me or without me -- and I think we've got a chance to win. I just don't want to go back to the minor leagues."

Mercedes has lost some playing time due to the ankle sprain he HTC suffered in a game at Clearwater on March 9. It remains sore, but he has been cleared to play and feels he must to keep his major-league options open.

"I don't feel 100 percent to play the outfield," he said, "but I've got to go out there no matter what."

Day off

The Orioles do not have a game scheduled today and Oates has given them the day off from regular workouts. The club resumes exhibition play tomorrow when Mike Mussina takes the mound against the Cleveland Indians at Winter Haven.

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