Designated hitter Harold Baines said yesterday that his first year playing close to home has lived up to his expectations and he hopes to be back with the Orioles next season.
"It has been very enjoyable," Baines said. "Yeah, I'd love to come back."
The club figures to invite him. Baines is batting .312 with 17 home runs and 71 RBI despite knee and rib-cage problems that have limited him to 111 games. He has come on particularly strong down the stretch, batting .367 in his past 27 games.
Baines, 34, grew up on the Eastern Shore, but played the first 13 years of his major-league career with the Chicago White Sox, Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics. He was traded to the Orioles on Jan. 14 and signed a one-year contract worth $1.1 million plus incentives.
Club officials have not yet laid out their plans for next year, but it seems likely that there will be room for Baines after a season in which he has been one of the club's top hitters with men on base (.339).
Hoiles among leaders
Chris Hoiles ranks seventh in the league with a .313 batting average. He is trying to hit for the highest average by an everyday American League catcher since Brian Downing hit .326 for the California Angels in 1979. Since then, only two other catchers have finished in the top 10 -- Brian Harper (.307 in 1992) and Ted Simmons (.308 in 1983).
Johnson to retire
Former Orioles right-hander Dave Johnson has informed the Detroit Tigers that he intends to retire at the end of the season. Johnson, who grew up in the Baltimore area, said yesterday that he is coming home to pursue a career in financial planning.
"It just isn't fun being away from home all the time," he said. "I came home this time and my 3-year-old said, 'Daddy, don't go away on the plane anymore.' I'm excited about doing some other things."
Johnson, 33, said he also would like to work for the Orioles organization in a part-time capacity.
"I haven't talked to the Orioles, but I would love to do something off the field for them, maybe throw some batting practice and do some community relations work. I'd still like to be affiliated with baseball."
Valenzuela will go on
Left-hander Fernando Valenzuela said yesterday he hopes to continue his major-league career next year, though he has not yet thought about where he might end up.
"I've worked too hard to get back to quit now," he said. "I want to continue to pitch, that's all I can tell you. It's too early to say anything else."
Valenzuela, 32, will become a free agent at the end of the year. There is room to wonder if he'll attempt to sign with a team closer to his Los Angeles home, but he apparently enjoyed spending 1993 in Baltimore.
Olson up in the air
Reliever Gregg Olson got up in the bullpen on Friday night, but he was not asked to get up for a game situation. There still has been no decision on whether he'll make another game appearance this year.
L "Nothing has been decided," Olson said. "I'll let you know."
Olson has made one appearance -- walking the only batter he faced last Wednesday in Cleveland -- since his injury was diagnosed as a slightly torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.
Tickets for last night's Orioles-Tigers rainout may be exchanged at face value for any remaining 1993 home game, but because so few tickets remain for games this year, fans may exchange their rain checks for any game in April or May of 1994 except Opening Day.
Tickets may be exchanged only at the Orioles box office and the three Orioles baseball stores in Washington, Seabrook, Md., and York, Pa. Fans who live more than 75 miles from the ballpark may obtain a full refund by mail. Send requests to: Orioles Ticket Office, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, 333 W. Camden St., Baltimore, Md. 21201. Postmarks will be checked to verify the 75-mile distance.