Cotto released, heads for Japan

February 19, 1994|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Sun Staff Writer

SARASOTA, FLA — SARASOTA, Fla. -- The Orioles did their part yesterday to ease trade-related tension with Japan. The club released newly acquired outfielder Henry Cotto from his minor-league contract to allow him to sign with the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants.

Cotto was signed as a free agent on Feb. 5, but he later was offered a $1 million guaranteed contract to play in Japan. The Orioles could have held him to his non-guaranteed deal, but agreed to let him accept the better offer.

"He expressed a desire to go there so we made it possible," Orioles general manager Roland Hemond said. "It's a guaranteed contract. Here, he would have to make the major-league club."

It wasn't an entirely charitable gesture, however. The club received about $100,000 from the Japanese team for permission to sign Cotto, a transaction that might not have been made if the Orioles had not also signed veteran outfielder Lonnie Smith to a minor-league contract at about the same time.

The Orioles figured to keep one of the two veterans. The starting outfield is set, with Brady Anderson, Mike Devereaux and Jeffrey Hammonds projected to play regularly, and probably Smith and Jack Voigt used in reserve. David Segui also is in the mix if he doesn't end up in a spring deal for more pitching.

"We feel we have enough candidates for the various jobs," Hemond said. "We're happy for Henry and sincerely hope that he has a good experience in Japan."

Sabo working out nearby

Newly acquired third baseman Chris Sabo has been holding his own in early workouts at a nearby high school, but he apparently angered some residents when he hit a couple of long balls into their neighborhood.

"I remember the same thing happened with Dick Allen during the '72 lockout," said Hemond. "He worked out at the local high schooland the people were frantic. I hope that Sabo hit the same house. . . because that was quite a shot."

Mussina pleased with workout

Right-hander Mike Mussina was upbeat after his first spring workout. He threw from the practice mounds and reported no problem in the area of his shoulder and upper back that caused him so much trouble last season.

"I'm pleased with how the winter went," Mussina said, "considering how it started last October."

Mussina went 14-6 in 25 starts last year, but he was sore and ineffective during the final months of the season. He shut down his arm after a mid-September appearance and did not begin throwing again until late December.

Armed forces

Manager Johnny Oates was asked if he would be comfortable with two submariners (Mark Eichhorn and Todd Frohwirth) on his pitching staff this year.

"I don't care if they are battleships or destroyers, if they get people out," he said.

Too early to tell

Someone asked Oates if the versatility of some of his bench players will make it possible to go with an 11-man pitching staff, but he was noncommittal.

"You know I've always liked an 11-man pitching staff," he said, "but we've got two off-days the first week of the season. The first week of the season you've essentially got seven relievers even if you only have a 10-man staff, but we're really putting the cart before the horse here."

Hammonds' early start

Hammonds is the only position player for whom the Orioles have asked permission to start spring training early. And the outfielder isn't scheduled to work out until Tuesday, the day before the rest of the squad reports.

Two right-handers, Armando Benitez and Jay Powell, missed yesterday's initial workout as expected. Powell, last year's No. 1 draft choice and a nonroster invitee to camp, was given permission to report four days late.

"He just finished playing in Australia and he had a little tenderness in his elbow," said Hemond. "It's nothing serious, but he'll probably be held back a little bit at the start."

Benitez, the Orioles' minor-league Pitcher of the Year after compiling an 8-1 record at Single-A Albany and Frederick, is scheduled to arrive today. He was delayed leaving the Dominican Republic because of visa problems.

Frohwirth hoops it up

Frohwirth had another successful season as a basketball coach in his hometown of Milwaukee. Last year, he compiled an overall 44-7 record while coaching seventh-graders and the junior varsity at Marquette High School.

This year, the reliever switched to Pius High School, where his junior-varsity squad had an 18-2 record, with two games remaining, before Frohwirth left for spring training. In addition, he also coached boys and girls eighth-grade teams, which had a combined 18-8 record for an overall mark of 36-10.

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