Parent may cut out for good Assigned to Rochester, catcher weighs retirement

April 05, 1993|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

Catcher Mark Parent, who became the odd man out in his bid to win the job as backup to Chris Hoiles, says he may retire rather than accept an assignment to the Rochester Red Wings.

The Orioles got down to the 25-man limit yesterday by optioning Parent, 31, to their Triple-A farm club. But, after an emotional scene, Parent indicated he wouldn't report.

"I'm 99 percent sure, as I sit here, that I'm done," said Parent, who hit .360 this spring, but lost the No. 2 catcher's job to Jeff Tackett, 27. "I explained [to the Orioles] how I felt personally about going through so much with my knee.

"I can't do it anymore. I can't put my family through it anymore -- not that they complain -- but I just can't do it to them," said Parent. He was signed by the Orioles as a free agent before the 1992 season after undergoing an extensive rehabilitation program to rebuild his left knee, which he severely injured in a spring training game while with the Texas Rangers in 1991.

A year ago, Parent hit .287 with 17 home runs at Rochester, and earned a late-season promotion to the Orioles. He went to camp this spring with the understanding he would compete with Tackett for the backup job behind Hoiles.

"It wasn't clear-cut, believe me," Orioles manager Johnny Oates said after informing Parent of the club's decision. "You try to take everything into consideration in figuring out what is best for the club.

"What it probably came down to is we know that Jeff can sit around and come off the bench to play a game or two -- and we really don't know how that would affect Mark.

"I do know that if anything happened to Chris [Hoiles], I would have no problem catching him [Parent] every day," said Oates. "It could be, that if we brought him back we'd be stronger with Mark catching every day and Jeff backing him up. I know either one can play every day, and I know Jeff can come off the bench and play a game or two.

"But that doesn't make him [Parent] feel any better -- he's just been sent to Rochester," said Oates. "From the selfish standpoint of a manager, the good thing is that we can keep them both."

Oates indicated he thought Parent ultimately would relent and accept his assignment to Rochester. "Right now he's very disappointed, frustrated and angry," said Oates. "I know, because I was there two or three times myself. I would try to discourage him from doing that [retiring]," said Oates. "But he's the only one who can make that decision."

Parent said the Orioles indicated they were willing to make some contractual adjustments to make the option to Rochester more appealing. He met with general manager Roland Hemond yesterday afternoon, but nothing was resolved.

"I'm not sure I'm clear on what they're asking me to do," said Parent. He had accepted Oates' assurance that there would be a "fair evaluation" during spring training and the club would do whatever it could to make sure he had a big-league job.

But when it came time to make a decision, the Orioles didn't have anyoffers that would've kept Parent in the big leagues. "If he wasn't going to catch in the big leagues, we weren't going to give him away," said Oates. "That's no way to run a business."

Though obviously frustrated and disappointed, Parent said he harbored no ill feelings toward Oates, the club -- or Tackett. "Johnny said he didn't want to see me have to go back to Triple-A and I hung on to that all through spring training.

"But we're all men playing a kid's game -- and sometimes we find out the stranger on the corner isn't always going to take you home. That's a pretty good analogy," said Parent, reflecting on his expression.

"It was a fair camp and I lost, that's the bottom line. We [he and Tackett] had the same number of at-bats, I hit .300, he hit .300, we both do the other things," said Parent. "I wish him all the luck in the world.

"I don't blame Johnny, I don't blame them [the Orioles] for anything. I've been around long enough; they [baseball teams] aren't in the habit of giving away players for nothing. I can't blame them for that.

"The only person I blame is myself," Parent said. "If going home is the wrong decision, then I've got nobody to blame but myself.

"Sometimes," said Parent, fighting his emotions, "you're just not good enough and that's hard to swallow."

Because he's signed to a "split" contract, Parent would make considerably less at Rochester than he would in the big leagues. That undoubtedly will enter into his decision.

Hemond indicated the club was willing to make some adjustments, but wouldn't be specific.

"Right now, the last place in the world he [Parent] wants to be is in a ballpark," said Oates. "He needs some time.

"I told him to take a few days and talk to Wendy [his wife] and then make a decision," said Oates, who admitted yesterday was another unpleasant experience.

"They're all tough," he said of the final decisions necessary to get down to the 25-man limit.

But today begins a new season, and nobody knows better than Oates or Parent that yesterday's news will be just that.

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