Parent reconsiders, to wing it in Rochester Demoted catcher cites Sutcliffe chat, pay hike

April 07, 1993|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

His mind reassured by advice from Rick Sutcliffe and his wallet fortified by the club, Mark Parent has reconsidered his decision to retire and will join the Orioles' Triple-A team in Rochester.

"They [the Orioles] are making it worthwhile financially for me to go," Parent said yesterday. He completed an agreement with general manager Roland Hemond while about half the Orioles' squad was participating in an optional workout at Camden Yards.

Parent, 31, was the last player cut by the Orioles, the day before Monday's season-opening 7-4 loss to Texas, and had indicated he would retire rather than return to the minor leagues. But, after receiving some counseling from Sutcliffe and one guarantee from the club, he changed his mind.

"Rick came over to my hotel room after the workout Sunday and talked to me and my wife [Wendy]," said Parent. "He pointed out some things to me.

"I hate it when he [Sutcliffe] is right," quipped Parent, who hit .360 this spring but failed to beat out Jeff Tackett for the No. 2 job behind regular catcher Chris Hoiles.

"All I did was tell him how important he was to the organization, and that he owed it to himself not to give up now," said Sutcliffe. "He's worked too hard to come back [from major knee surgery] to quit now.

"It would be like me saying the heck with it because I got knocked around yesterday [Monday, in the opener]. At his age, he can come back and catch four or five more years in the big leagues."

The only guarantee Parent got from the Orioles was a promise of a call-up on Sept. 1, when the rosters expand from 25 to 40. "That will get the 31 days I need [to become a five-year player] out of the way," said Parent, who has four years and 141 days of major-league service. A five-year player has the right to reject a minor-league assignment and become a free agent.

Parent was signed to a contract worth $200,000 at the big-league level, but less than half of that at Triple-A. The Orioles, like most big-league teams, generally refuse to adjust salaries when a player is sent to the minor leagues.

Hemond declined to discuss what incentives the club had offered.

Sutcliffe said he felt his role in Parent's decision was as an outside party offering another opinion. "I think they just needed to hear it [words of encouragement] from somebody else," said Sutcliffe.

"I told Mark, 'They're not tearing the uniform off you -- they're just telling you to get a little bit better' and that he owed it to himself to give it another shot."

Manager Johnny Oates said he thought Parent made a wise decision. "I think it would have been a mistake to quit, unless he thought he was through with baseball," said Oates. "You have to look at all the ramifications.

"I get calls all the time from people who are looking for a way to get back into baseball. Once you get out of it, it's tough to get back in sometimes.

"From my standpoint, it means I'm carrying three catchers," Oates said. "I can't use all three in the same game, but I know I have a third guy who is only a phone call away.

"I know that doesn't make him [Parent] feel any better because he's not getting pension time, but it's comforting to me. We have depth in the outfield, the infield and pitching, but we don't have a lot of depth at catching, so he's important to us."

Hemond said Parent's value to the team also is evident at Rochester. "It's very important to have a solid catcher at that level [Triple-A]," said Hemond.

"It's vital that your young pitchers aren't retarded in their development. We think Mark played an important role in the development of Arthur Rhodes [at Rochester] last year."

So tonight, while the Orioles are preparing for the second game of the season against the Rangers, Parent will be working out in Rochester. And tomorrow, while the Orioles are flying to Seattle to begin their first road trip of the year, he'll be in the starting lineup when the Red Wings open their season at Syracuse.

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