Chito gets shot with Baysox

April 27, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer Staff writer Milton Kent contributed to this article

CHICAGO -- Right fielder Chito Martinez is going to get another chance to play regularly in Baltimore, but it will not be at Camden Yards.

The Orioles optioned Martinez to the Double-A Bowie Baysox yesterday to accommodate Fernando Valenzuela's return to the major-league rotation -- and so that the 27-year-old outfielder can get some playing time.

The move came as a surprise to no one, not even Martinez. He had not had a hit in the first three weeks of the season and he had lost his place in manager Johnny Oates' right-field platoon to converted infielder Mark McLemore. It may be small consolation, but he's expected to be in the lineup today when the Baysox play a doubleheader at Memorial Stadium.

"He needs to go out and get some at-bats," Oates said. "I can't get him any here. He needs to go down there and start doing what got him here. Who knows, maybe he'll come back and hit 15 [home runs] for us like he did two years ago."

Martinez came up midway through the 1991 season and hit 13 home runs to put himself in position to win a regular role in right field, but he played behind Joe Orsulak for most of last season and started slowly again this year. He came into spring training as the one left-handed hitter in the right-field mix, but the success of the McLemore outfield experiment left Oates less inclined to wait out another April slump.

The club's early-season offensive problems didn't help either. The Orioles are the lowest-scoring team in the American League, averaging 3.6 runs going into last night's series opener against the Chicago White Sox.

Oates was expected to go with an 11-man pitching staff, and there was not another position player in a position to step aside. The move was going to involve one of the extra outfielders, and Martinez was at a decided statistical disadvantage to Luis Mercedes and Sherman Obando.

Mercedes entered last night's game batting .286 -- good enough to convince Oates to move him into the No. 2 slot in the lineup. Obando also came into the evening with a .286 average, and his status is complicated by the provisions of the Rule V draft. Because he was taken in the draft of unprotected minor-league players in December, he cannot be sent down without being offered back to the New York Yankees and sent through waivers.

Martinez, meanwhile, was hitless in April for the second straight year. He went 0-for-13 in 1992 and was 0-for-15 in 19 plate appearances in the first 16 games of 1993. He had a feeling something was up on Saturday, and went to Oates for reassurance, but it was not forthcoming.

Why the Double-A Baysox instead of the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings? Because the Orioles have four outfield prospects -- Damon Buford, Jack Voigt, Mark Smith and Mark Leonard -- who already are competing for playing time in Rochester.

This way, Martinez, who was unavailable for comment yesterday, can get some regular work without disrupting the situation in Rochester, and he will not have to move out of Baltimore.

"We sent him to Bowie so he could get right into the lineup," general manager Roland Hemond said. "We can fit him in a little better there. He may go to Rochester later, but we think this will be good for him. He's needs to play."

Baysox manager Don Buford thought the change would be good for Martinez.

"Each and every time someone has been sent down to us, they've come down, played hard and gone back up to stay," he said after last night's rainout.

"When Brady Anderson was injured, he came down and worked himself back into condition. Chris Hoiles came down and got himself back on track and those are just two individuals that I can think of. Hopefully, he'll come here and do the same thing."

No doubt, Martinez was unhappy to be demoted, but that had to be better than being released at a point in the season when it would have been difficult to find another job. His future with the organization might be in doubt, but he still has a chance to win another look in the majors.

There had been speculation that another move might be forthcoming yesterday. Hemond apparently has been looking for outside help, but he did not have anything else to announce.

"We were talking to a lot of people," said Oates, who met with Hemond yesterday morning. "There was a possibility of some other things, but nothing happened."

LATE ORIOLES GAME

Last night's Orioles-White Sox game in Chicago did not end in time to be included in this edition. A complete report can be found in later editions of The Sun and all editions of The Evening Sun. For the latest sports results, call SUNDIAL at (410) 783-1800, ext. 5001 (in Anne Arundel County, call [410] 268-7736, ext. 5001).

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