Yankees to try out Olson

February 04, 1994|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Sun Staff Writer

The Orioles have not given up on re-signing free-agent relief pitcher Gregg Olson, but it is beginning to look like he might end up with one of their American League East rivals.

Olson is to audition for New York Yankees officials at Yankee Stadium today, and negotiations apparently are being held with the Toronto Blue Jays as well as the Atlanta Braves.

Agent Jeff Moorad said last night that Olson might be in a position to make a decision in the next few days, which doesn't bode well for the likelihood of his returning here. Orioles general manager Roland Hemond has not heard from Moorad since Sunday.

"I thought I'd have heard from Jeff earlier than this," Hemond said. "He indicated then [Sunday] that we'd be talking in a couple of days."

Moorad indicated, however, that he has not broken off negotiations with the Orioles, only put them on hold until he has an acceptable offer from another club to present for their consideration. That could happen this weekend.

"Roland made it clear that they are still interested in signing Gregg," Moorad said, "but I told him that we would be getting back to them after we are farther along. I suspect we'll be talking in the next few days."

No doubt, Olson needed some time to digest the news that the Orioles had signed all-time save leader Lee Smith last weekend.

He has been negotiating with six teams since the Orioles failed to tender him a contract on Dec. 20, but his job as the Orioles closer remained open until Smith's arrival.

It was the third time in less than a year that Olson's once-cozy relationship with the team has been put to the test. He was crushed when manager Johnny Oates temporarily benched him during an April slump and he was stunned when the team failed to tender him a contract. The arrival of Smith may have been strike three, but Olson isn't saying. He was not available for comment.

"We're on track to complete a deal in the next few days," Moorad said. "Four teams have made financial proposals that remain on the table."

Still, the market for Olson's services has narrowed over the past week. The California Angels, who extended him a multi-year offer several weeks ago, apparently have withdrawn from negotiations, and the Philadelphia Phillies went another direction with the signing of free agent Norm Charlton yesterday.

That leaves the Yankees, Blue Jays and Braves, all of whom could make a strong case for signing Olson . . . or passing him by.

The Yankees have newly acquired right-hander Xavier Hernandez in the short-relief role, but could move him into a setup role to make room for Olson.

"We'll look and see what we think," Yankees general manager Gene Michael said this week. "We'll see how far along he is. It's risky. . . . we have to talk to our doctors. We already have talked to his doctors. It's something we'll consider."

There apparently is some disagreement in the Blue Jays organization over the wisdom of adding another closer to a bullpen that includes 1993 AL save co-leader Duane Ward, but it might be the perfect situation for Olson.

He would be able to pitch for a contender without subjecting his elbow to the pressures of a full-time closer role. If he had a solid year, he would be in position to get his big multi-year contract as a free agent next year.

"Yes, it [Ward's presence] would play a role in Gregg's decision," Moorad told the Toronto Sun, "but Gregg has been in the unique position of watching the Jays the past few years. He has nothing but respect for their commitment to winning. When Toronto talks, players listen, and Gregg is listening intently."

The Braves expressed interest in Olson soon after the Orioles allowedhim to become a free agent, but there has been little news out of Atlanta the past few weeks. The Braves got 46 saves from Mike Stanton (27) and Greg McMichael (19) last year, but a healthy Olson would give them the best pitching staff in baseball.

Nevertheless, the interest in Atlanta may not be comparable to that of the two AL East clubs. Braves officials wondered privately why the Orioles would cut loose their all-time save leader if his physical condition wasn't a serious question mark.

The Orioles, meanwhile, still hold out hope that Olson will decide to stay at home.

"I'd like to have him in spring training," Oates said, "but you have to draw your lines and let him make the decision. I think that Peter Angelos, Roland, Doug [Melvin] and Frank [Robinson] have left the lines of communication open. We want him back, but it's going to have to be a two-way street."

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