The Orioles added another veteran player yesterday, signing outfielder Lonnie Smith to a minor-league contract and inviting him to spring training.
Smith, 38, spent the final month of the 1993 season with the Orioles after he was acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates for minor-leaguers Terry Ferrar and Stanton Cameron. He hit .208 with two home runs in 24 at-bats, then became a free agent when the club did not offer arbitration in early November.
"This gives us a little more depth and gives him a chance to continue his career," general manager Roland Hemond said. "He's been a quality hitter."
Smith is the fourth veteran to sign a minor-league contract in the past two days. The Orioles signed pitcher Mark Williamson, outfielder Henry Cotto and utility infielder Rene Gonzales on Thursday.
The return of Smith and the acquisition of Cotto give the Orioles decent outfield depth and assures that manager Johnny Oates will not have to keep a promising prospect such as Damon Buford sitting idle in the majors when he would be better served playing regularly at Triple-A Rochester.
The Orioles figure to open the season with an outfield of Brady Anderson, Mike Devereaux and Jeffrey Hammonds, but two veterans on the bench will provide some peace of mind for club officials who watched Hammonds struggle all summer with a pinched nerve in his neck.
It has been an active off-season, but Hemond would not say that the search for help is over. The Orioles continue to scan the free-agent market for players to deepen the spring training roster.
"I would be happy to go into camp with what we have now, but that doesn't mean we ever stop," Hemond said. "We always keep looking toward any possible signings or trades that might help us."
The club has shopped systematically, first working on the major free-agent signings -- Rafael Palmeiro and Sid Fernandez. They then offered one-year deals to relief pitcher Mark Eichhorn and third baseman Chris Sabo, signed free-agent reliever Lee Smith and gave minor-league contracts to a handful of players.
Now, the only major issue facing the club is reliever Gregg Olson, who continues to negotiate with several clubs, but has told the Orioles he will give them a chance to match any offer.
O'S TICKET LOTTERIES
About 10,000 tickets will be up for grabs in two Opening Day lotteries, the Orioles announced yesterday.
The Orioles open the regular season against the Kansas City Royals April 4 at Camden Yards. The game is a sellout except for seats to be distributed in the lotteries, one to the general public and a second to mini-plan season-ticket buyers.
Fans wishing to enter the general-public lottery should send postcards to: Orioles Opening Day Ticket Drawing, P.O. Box 39999, Baltimore, Md. 21330-0999.
Entries must be postmarked by Feb. 21, and there is no limit to the number of postcards that can be submitted. Winners may buy as many as two tickets, and there is a limit of one winning postcard per household.
The mini-plan lottery will be conducted by the Orioles, using the team's season-ticket list. Those customers should not send in postcards; winners will be notified after selections are made. Mini-plan winners will be limited to one Opening Day seat for each ticket in their season-ticket plans.
The 10,000 seats are split about equally between the two lotteries, the Orioles said.