Off-season moves catch O's Gomez out of position

February 26, 1994|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Leo Gomez doesn't need anyone to explain his position with the Orioles. He doesn't have one and there's little, if anything, he can do about it.

What he would like is some assurance that his situation will be resolved sooner rather than later.

"If they are going to do something, I'd like for it to happen now," said Gomez.

Displaced by free agent Chris Sabo as the Orioles' third baseman, Gomez feels he deserved another chance, but realizes he's not going to get it in Baltimore.

"If anybody is going to play every day, it's going to be Sabo," he said. "I don't think they have any plans for me.

"I just don't want to wait until the last three or four days [of spring training] before they do something. I'd rather they tell me now. It's tough when you go to the last week when everybody has their club together."

Gomez has not asked the Orioles to trade him. He said he'll wait until after the exhibition season starts to approach the club about his status.

The situation involving Gomez and Sabo is one of the most intriguing in the Orioles' spring training camp. Both are represented by the same agent, Chicago-based Jim Bronner, but Gomez doesn't believe his position was compromised.

"Hey, this is a business," he said. "I know that and I have no complaints. He [Sabo] could've gotten more money from the Mets, but I understand why he didn't want to go there."

Admittedly, Gomez didn't understand why the Orioles pursued Sabo in the first place.

"I knew there was some talk about him last year, after I got hurt," he said. "But, why not give me a chance, one more year? Except after I got hurt last year, I think I did a good job."

Gomez took over at third base early in the 1991 season. Last year, he started well, hitting .275 through May 28 and leading the club in home runs (nine) as late as June 19. But he went through a 10-for-101 (.099) stretch between May 29 and July 7 before he revealed a wrist injury that ultimately required surgery.

He underwent an operation to remove a cyst from his left wrist July 22 and played only one game for the Orioles after that.

"They got [Mike] Pagliarulo then and I didn't get a chance to play again," said Gomez.

Immediately after the season, Gomez had a talk with manager Johnny Oates and realized his position might be in jeopardy.

"I talked to Johnny before I went back to Puerto Rico to find out what his plans were," said Gomez. "He told me he didn't know, because he didn't know what was going to happen. That made me worry a little bit."

Still, as late as mid-January, Gomez thought he would come to camp as the Orioles' regular third baseman.

"Fred Uhlman Sr. [the Orioles' special assignment scout] came to Puerto Rico and we talked a lot," said Gomez. "He told me this was my job here. But two days later they signed Sabo."

Gomez has had plenty of time to get over the surprise. Now he wants to find a place to play.

"I'm 100 percent now and I've had good numbers in the minor leagues and big leagues when I play every day," he said. "I want what is best for me. I know I can play in the big leagues. If they're not going to give me a chance to play, then they should give me a chance to go where I can."

Gomez said it was his desire to stay in the lineup that led him to keep quiet about his injury last season.

"I didn't want to say anything because I wanted to play every day," he said.

In retrospect, Gomez realizes he made a mistake -- one that might have cost his job.

"Now I wish I had told them, because maybe something could've been done and I could've played the last two or three months."

Orioles general manager Roland Hemond said the team could trade Gomez.

"We just have to wait and see," he said. "It's possible he could be part of a trade."

Oates said he'll try to get Gomez as much playing time as possible while evaluating the overall roster.

"I'll try to get him as many at-bats as possible and when it comes down to picking the final squad, we'll see if there's a fit," Oates said. "If not, then we'll explore other options. I'm not aware of what those options are. That will be up to the front office to decide. Right now, Leo just has to get himself ready to play."

And prepare himself for a move to another team.

"If they want to trade me, that's fine," said Gomez. "I want to stay in the big leagues and I know I can put up good numbers if I play every day."

But right now, Gomez doesn't know where he will get that opportunity. He only knows it won't be with the Orioles.

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