Leonard tries to get in the swing of things New Oriole's first at-bats uneventful Spring Training

March 24, 1993|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Mark Leonard probably won't forget his first experience in an Orioles uniform, but not because of anything that took place on the field.

The left-handed hitting outfielder, who was obtained from the San Francisco Giants Saturday for infielder Steve Scarsone, made his debut in a hastily arranged intrasquad game here yesterday. The scheduled exhibition game against the Indians was canceled because of the deaths of Cleveland pitchers Steve Olin and Tim Crews.

It was an uneventful afternoon, with Leonard flying out twice and drawing a walk in his three plate appearances. His swing impressed the Orioles' staff, but there were no conclusions to be drawn on this day.

"We're going to mix him in with everybody else and see what happens," said manager Johnny Oates.

One of the few people on the team that Leonard knows -- Chito Martinez -- will provide his chief competition for a job in right field. Martinez gave him a ride from the airport.

"We have the same agent [Roy Anderson], and we met a couple of years ago on a cruise," said Leonard. "Last year, we played together in a golf tournament in Puerto Rico, and we've stayed in touch with each other.

"But being from another league, and training in Arizona, I really don't know too many people here."

Leonard said he has followed the Orioles closely the past couple of years -- and not just because of Martinez.

"I'd heard rumors for the last two years that I might get traded over here," he said. "So I started following the team."

Orioles general manager Roland Hemond said he had been trying to acquire Leonard, but didn't have any success dealing with former Giants general manager Al Rosen. "Sometimes when a new regime comes in, it's easier to make a deal," said Hemond.

This one he consummated with his brother-in-law, Bob Quinn, the former Cincinnati Reds and New York Yankees GM who replaced Rosen with the Giants. "He [Quinn] reminded me, this is the first trade we've ever made," said Hemond.

Although Leonard wasn't stunned by the trade, he said he didn't completely understand it. "When I got the call [informing him of the trade], I wasn't completely surprised," he said, "except for the fact that they [the Giants] don't have a left-handed hitter to come off the bench.

"I look at this as an opportunity -- a new team, in a different league, where they use the designated hitter. It seems like there could be more chances for a hitter.

"Plus, this is a good team. It will be nice to be on a club that can win it."

The Orioles are intrigued by Leonard's 75 minor-league home runs -- but Martinez has 95 homers in the minor leagues and hit 13 in half a season in the big leagues in 1991. "I told Chito that nothing has changed," said Oates.

"It's no different for him now than it has been any other year. He's just got to go out and play to the best of his ability and let the chips fall. I'm not comparing Leonard only to Chito, but to everybody."

The Orioles didn't acquire Leonard to lose him via waivers (which they would have to obtain before sending him to the minor leagues), so he figures to be on the Opening Day roster. Martinez also appears to be secure, and Sherman Obando, the Rule V draft who has been impressive this spring, figures to claim the remaining outfield spot.

That would leave Luis Mercedes, the subject of recent trade rumors, and Jack Voigt without roster spots.

Oates said it's still too early to draw conclusions, but the makeup of the roster is taking shape. There are still decisions to be made about the backup catcher, either Jeff Tackett or Mark Parent, the fifth starter, with Mark Williamson, Anthony Telford and Fernando Valenzuela in the picture, and whether to go with 10 or 11 pitchers.

And there is the possibility that another trade will have a bearing on the final 25-man roster.

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