Spring is in bloom for Orioles

February 17, 1994|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Sun Staff Writer

The Orioles are beginning to filter into Florida, where the club soon will begin preparing for its most promising season in a decade. Today is the reporting date for pitchers and catchers, but they aren't really required to be in camp until the club opens early workouts tomorrow at Twin Lakes Park.

That's when manager Johnny Oates will welcome a pitching staff with a decidedly different look from the one that closed the 1993 season. Newly acquired left-hander Sid Fernandez is expected to join his new teammates. So is veteran right-handed reliever Lee Smith and middleman Mark Eichhorn.

Club officials expect only one no-show. No. 1 draft choice Jay Powell has been given permission to join the club Sunday, because he only recently returned to the United States from a winter assignment in the Australian League.

Many of the Orioles' other rookie and Single-A prospects are in camp at Twin Lakes Park, taking part in the minor-league minicamp that has replaced the October Instructional League team. But Powell received an invitation to major-league camp as a condition of the contract he signed after the club drafted him out of Mississippi State.

The early days of major-league camp usually are uneventful, but thenext week or so should provide plenty to interest and intrigue. Orioles officials will be getting their first look at Fernandez, Smith, Eichhorn and catcher Rich Gedman in Orioles uniforms. They also will begin to get a read on pitching ace Mike Mussina, who spent much of the second half of last season on the disabled list with back and shoulder problems.

The two weeks of workouts that lead into the exhibition season also are a busy time for general manager Roland Hemond and assistant GMs Doug Melvin and Frank Robinson, who still have a number of players to sign before the contract renewal deadline.

The club still has 12 players in the zero-to-three-year service classwho have not signed 1994 contracts. That list includes Mussina, who went down to the renewal wire a year ago, and Jeffrey Hammonds, who managed to display tremendous potential despite a neck injury that kept him from being a regular member of the lineup last year.

The Orioles continue to seek a permanent spring home, but they will have no change of scenery this year. They again will spend two weeks at Twin Lakes Park for fundamentals and conditioning, then move their base of operations to the Huggins/Stengel Training Complex in St. Petersburg for the exhibition season. For the third straight year, they will play their home games at St. Petersburg's Al Lang Stadium.

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