ST. PETERSBURG, FLA — ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- When the Orioles determined yesterday that they wouldn't keep three catchers, Rich Gedman decided it was time to retire.
"Basically, that's it -- unless I have a change of heart tomorrow," Gedman said as he packed personal equipment in preparation for his departure. But he left little doubt that his 12-year career had ended.
Gedman had sensed the news he got from manager Johnny Oates yesterday morning. "My ultimate goal was to get back to the big leagues, somehow," he said. "But, the kind of spring I had was telling me it was time [to retire].
"They gave me an option [of going to Triple-A Rochester]," said Gedman. "But I think it's time."
A two-time American League All-Star (1985 and 1986) who caught Roger Clemens' 20-strikeout game against the Seattle Mariners on April 29, 1986, Gedman came to camp after spending last year with the Yankees' Triple-A team in Columbus, Ohio. He hit .262 with 12 home runs in 89 games last season, but despite a 3-for-5 performance as a pinch hitter, he batted .160 (4-for-25) this spring.
"I was honest with him," said Oates. "I told him we'd like him to go to Rochester and stay ready in case anything happened. But I also told him we wanted Greg Zaun to catch there every day and we couldn't make any promises to him. He told me 'I've given it a lot of thought -- I'm ready to go home.' "
Gedman was one of three players dropped yesterday by the Orioles. Outfielder Mark Smith was optioned to Rochester before yesterday's 8-6, 11-inning loss to the White Sox. After the game, pitcher Kevin McGehee was told he wouldn't accompany the Orioles to Baltimore. The team is expected to announce that McGehee will start the season in Rochester.
Two nonroster players, catcher Craig Faulkner and recently signed pitcher Tom Bolton, will stay with the club until the conclusion of the exhibition season in Baltimore on Saturday, then be assigned to the minor leagues. That will leave the Orioles with 27 players, two over the regular-season limit.
The final cuts aren't expected before the last workout of the spring, Sunday afternoon at Camden Yards. Oates said yesterday that left-handed reliever Brad Pennington had made the team, leaving veteran Mark Williamson and rookie Mike Oquist in competition for the final spot on the pitching staff. Unless they make a last-minute deal for Leo Gomez, which seems unlikely, it appears the Orioles will have to decide between outfielder Damon Buford and infielder Rene Gonzales to fill the last position spot on the roster.
Williamson and Gonzales are signed to Rochester contracts, while Oquist and Buford can be optioned, so the Orioles can retain rights to all four players if they desire.
No stopping McDonald
Ben McDonald said yesterday that he will pitch the second game of the season on Wednesday regardless of how he feels after throwing on Sunday.
"I didn't throw the last two days, so I won't really know how it [his elbow] feels until Sunday," said McDonald. He was scratched from his final exhibition start today because of what was described as a bruised biceps tendon.
Both McDonald and Oates dismissed the injury as minor. "I would describe it as a dull, aching feeling -- or a 'grabbing' in the back of the elbow," said McDonald. "It's not anything that, in the short run, would make me miss a start."
He was asked what would happen if he felt the same way on Sunday. "I'm going to pitch Wednesday, regardless," he said. "It may be something I just have to work through.
LTC "They [team doctors] told me that, if there is such a thing, it's in a good area. It's not anything that could cause any serious damage.
"If we were in a stretch run, I wouldn't have missed a start," said McDonald. "We kicked around [having] a cortisone shot, but didn't want to do that just now. Instead, we're treating it with medication and rest."
Fernandez on target
Sid Fernandez threw off a mound again yesterday with no apparent problems. Afterward the left-hander said he felt "great."
Fernandez has pitched only two innings this spring, and will open the season on the disabled list because of elbow tendinitis. He threw yesterday to pitching coach Dick Bosman, with Oates watching. Both were satisfied with what they saw.
"He's doing everything he has to do without any difficulty," said Oates.
Fernandez is scheduled to make his first start for the Orioles on April 17 in Texas, the first time a fifth starter is needed. If the program he is following stays on schedule, he will throw batting practice next week, then make a couple rehabilitation starts in the minor leagues before joining the Orioles' rotation.
Baines feeling at home
Harold Baines hit his fourth home run of the spring and Mike Devereaux his second during yesterday's 8-6 loss to the White Sox. All of Baines' homers have come in his past nine games, as have eight of his nine RBIs.
The loss was the second in a row for the Orioles after a six-game unbeaten streak (5-0-1) and left them with a 14-14 exhibition record. After pitching two scoreless innings, Mark Eichhorn gave up two runs in the 11th yesterday and was charged with the loss.
Brady Anderson had three hits, including his fourth double in his past four games, and drove in two runs.
Opponent: Atlanta Braves
Site: Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium
Time: 1:10 p.m.
TV/Radio: TBS/WBAL (1090 AM)