Martinez gets no reassurance from Oates O-for outfielder worried about spot

Orioles notebook

April 25, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- There is nothing more unsettling to a struggling player than an impending roster move, so right fielder Chito Martinez went to manager Johnny Oates yesterday for a little reassurance.

He got very little.

"I said, 'There's nothing I can tell you to make you feel any better,' " Oates said. " 'You're not in the lineup today and you won't be tomorrow. Just stay ready until I call on you.' "

No doubt, Martinez senses that there may not be a tomorrow for his Orioles career. The club has to put left-hander Fernando Valenzuela on the roster to pitch against the Chicago White Sox tomorrow, so somebody is going to have to come off the roster to make room.

It doesn't take an advance scout to figure out that Martinez is in trouble. He remains 0-for-April and he has lost his place in the club's right-field platoon. Right-handed hitting Sherman Obando was in the starting lineup against right-hander Hipolito Pichardo yesterday. Mark McLemore, a converted second baseman, was the starter against right-hander Mark Gardner the night before.

"Wouldn't you be concerned?" Martinez said. "I don't want to go back to Triple-A. I've spent a lot of years there already. We'll just have to wait and see what happens."

In essence, the club already has told him his time may be short.

"I'm not going to lie to a guy or mislead him," Oates said. "I told him, 'As you walk out that door, you may be more confused than you were when you walked in here. I just don't have any answers I can give you.' "

Martinez is vulnerable because the Orioles are not in a position to option a pitcher. The club recalled left-hander Brad Pennington when Valenzuela was taken off the major-league roster temporarily, but Pennington isn't going back. He got a promotion when the club moved Gregg Olson out of the closer role Friday. Everyone else in the bullpen is pitching well, so Oates has little choice but to go with 11 pitchers.

Obando has made some mistakes -- and apparently could use some more minor-league experience -- but he is a Rule V draftee, so he can't be sent down without being offered back to the New York Yankees. Luis Mercedes appeared to be on the bubble when the season began, but he's batting .278 and hasn't done anything to deserve a demotion.

Martinez, however, is hitless in 15 at-bats this year for a team that needs all the offensive help it can get. He went hitless last April and bounced back to finish with acceptable numbers, but that was for a team that was going well. The Orioles may not be in a position to wait for him this time.

The club could ask him to accept a minor-league assignment, but it would be hard to find an appropriate place for him. The club has enough outfielders at the Triple-A level, where Damon Buford, Mark Smith, Jack Voigt and Mark Leonard all are competing for playing time.

New approach

Oates complained last week that his club seemed to be taking too many good pitches, but that hasn't been the problem the past couple of games. The Orioles appear to be doing just the opposite -- swinging at a lot of first pitches.

"We're trying to make adjustments," Oates said. "We're trying not to just sit back."

The Orioles coaching staff is trying everything to get the club out of its early-season slump, and Oates wants no one to underestimate that effort.

"I really believe that I have as hard-working a coaching staff as anyone," Oates said. "This coaching staff puts in as many quality hours

as any I've been around. Whatever we are not doing, it is not because of a lack of effort on their part."

Base-running folly

The Orioles have made enough mistakes on the bases to give Oates an ulcer, and there was one more yesterday when McLemore was doubled off first base on a pop fly in the seventh inning. He did more than make up for it, however, with a diving play that saved a hit in the top of the eighth and a leadoff home run in the ninth. The homer was his first in a regular-season major-league game since Aug. 18, 1988.

Oates on Oates

Someone asked Oates if the past three weeks have been particularly hard on him.

"I think that the last couple of weeks have been hard on the whole ballclub," he said. "It's not the losses, but the way that we lost them. It wipes you out mentally. I think our fans are suffering, too."

Meacham ejected

Royals reliever Rusty Meacham chose the right time to get on the umpires. He was thrown out of the game yesterday -- minutes after he was removed by manager Hal McRae. It was not a pleasant afternoon for Meacham or Royals stopper Jeff Montgomery. Each gave up two runs in the Orioles' comeback.

Bradley visits

Former Orioles outfielder Phil Bradley attended yesterday's game at Royals Stadium and visited with some of his former teammates during pre-game workouts.

Bradley has been out of baseball for much of the past year. He was released by the Montreal Expos after spring training in 1992 and now is coaching at Division III Westminster College. He lives in Columbia, Mo.

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