Devo lacks multi-year deal, not excitement

February 23, 1994|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

SARASOTA, FLA — SARASOTA, Fla. -- Happy to have avoided arbitration, but somewhat disappointed that he doesn't have a multi-year contract, Mike Devereaux was another early arrival at the Orioles' spring training camp yesterday.

"It's always better not to have to deal with an arbitration case," Devereaux said of the $3.375 million compromise that was reached just before his arbitration hearing was scheduled to begin.

But he'd also prefer not to have to go through the negotiating process each year.

The Orioles talked to Devereaux about a multi-year contract after his monster year in 1992 (24 home runs, 107 RBIs), but backed off when his numbers dropped off last year (14 and 75). However, a major factor in his decline was a separated shoulder that put him on the disabled list May 3 and caused him to miss 22 games.

"I felt like I paid my dues to get a multi-year [contract] this year," said Devereaux, who will be eligible for free agency after the coming season. He said he thinks a return to the No. 2 spot in the lineup behind Brady Anderson, which benefited him two years ago, will only help strengthen his bargaining position.

"I'm looking forward to having Devo behind Brady again," said manager Johnny Oates. "I think it will help him and us."

Devereaux agrees. "I'm anxious [to get started], otherwise I wouldn't be here two days early," said Devereaux. "I had my best season hitting second -- and when you've had the best year of your career, you definitely don't want to change."

A year ago, with Mark McLemore benefiting from exposure as the No. 2 hitter, Devereaux was needed elsewhere in the lineup. He hit second only 21 times.

The addition of Rafael Palmeiro and Chris Sabo and the development of Chris Hoiles will free Devereaux for a return to his favorite place in the order.

"There's no doubt, those guys [Palmeiro and Sabo] should make this an exciting season," said Devereaux. "We've got to be better. On paper, it's looking sweet -- but we still have to go out and do it."

If, in the process, Devereaux can earn a multi-year contract, so much the better.

Eye on minor-leaguers

Oates singled out several newcomers to the Orioles' 40-man roster whom he is eager to see. "I think, up close, the one I want to see the most is [outfielder] Alex Ochoa," said the manager. "I want to see how far away he is."

Ochoa hit .276, with 13 home runs, 90 RBIs and 34 stolen bases for Single-A Frederick last year. He is reputed to be an excellent outfielder, with a strong throwing arm from right field.

Among the pitchers, Oates cited Armando Benitez, the organization's minor-league Pitcher of the Year last season, Rick Forney and Rick Krivda. Benitez was a combined 8-1 at Single-A Albany and Frederick; Forney was 14-8 at Frederick; and Krivda was 10-5 at Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Rochester.

Airborne sign on Air Jordan

The Orioles took advantage of the massive media coverage surrounding Michael Jordan's tryout with the Chicago White Sox yesterday to draw some attention themselves.

The White Sox training complex is about 10 miles north of the Orioles' site at Twin Lakes Park, which is just south of Sarasota. While Jordan took batting practice against professional pitchers for the first time, a message-bearing plane circled above Ed Smith Stadium.

"The Orioles Train In Sarasota Too . . . No Bull! Good Luck Michael," said the sign on the advertising trailer.

The idea to attract a little attention for the Orioles, who play second fiddle to the White Sox here, came from Rick Vaughn, the club's public relations director. "We just wanted to have a little fun and remind the people that we're also in town," said Vaughn.

'One-Eyed Cat' tradition

Orioles pitchers played the first of their two annual spring training games, known as "One-Eyed Cat" for reasons unknown. The tradition dates back to 1955, Paul Richards' first year as manager, and has continued without interruption ever since.

In the game, there are five outfielders and first base is eliminated, with batters proceeding directly to second base, ploys that effectively reduce scoring opportunities.

"I don't know why it's called 'One-Eyed Cat,' " said Oates. "All I know is that's what [Earl] Weaver and Senior [Cal Ripken Sr.] called it. But I know why we do it.

"The only reason is to give pitchers a chance to face hitters before the regulars come to camp. We do it so those guys aren't diving [into the dirt to avoid wild pitches] for their lives."

If that's the lone reason, then yesterday's game wasn't necessary. "I don't believe I've ever seen one of these games where there wasn't a walk," said Oates. "But we went 11 innings without one."

Powell takes it easy

Jay Powell, the Orioles' No. 1 draft choice last June, worked out for the first time yesterday, but threw only softly for 10 minutes.

The right-hander, who is a non-roster invitee to camp, had a slightly strained elbow after pitching in Australia during the winter. "I don't know when he'll be able to throw," said Oates, "but we'll go slow with him."

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