Orioles trim down, cut Oquist, Gonzales

April 03, 1994|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Sun Staff Writer

The Orioles opted for experience in one case and youth in the other when they pared two players yesterday to reach the 25-player Opening Day roster limit.

For the 10th spot on the active pitching staff, veteran Mark Williamson won out over rookie Mike Oquist, who was optioned to Triple-A Rochester despite his impressive spring performance.

But the club went for 23-year-old outfielder Damon Buford as the final position player over former Oriole Rene Gonzales, a nonroster invitee who was trying to stick as a spare infielder.

Oquist, who had an option left, took the bad news in a philosophical manner, but a downcast Gonzales scurried to catch a flight without committing to his plans.

"I really don't know what I'm going to do," said Gonzales, 32, who became a free agent last October when the California Angels chose not to exercise their option on his contract. "I've got some decisions to make now."

The Orioles offered him the chance to play at Rochester or to make a deal for himself.

They already have Leo Gomez behind Chris Sabo at third, Tim Hulett to back up Cal Ripken and Mark McLemore in the middle-infield spots and outfielder Jack Voigt ready to spell Rafael Palmeiro at first. When efforts to trade Gomez failed, they had an excess.

"When we brought Gonzo in here, we had all intentions to find him a spot," said manager Johnny Oates. "It just didn't work out. We have someone else to back up at first, second and third and we needed somebody who can steal a base in the late innings more than a backup shortstop. Damon had a pretty good spring, too (.316 average).

Oquist had a 2.75 ERA in six spring appearances, walked three in 19 2/3 innings and held the opposition to a .233 batting average. But it wasn't enough to fend off Williamson, another nonroster player.

"It's tough to go, but I had an option left," said Oquist. "I've just got to keep working and hopefully, I'll keep throwing the ball well and be the first one they call up when they need a pitcher.

"But there are no promises in this game, that's for sure. They can't promise you anything."

Oates called the situation "a cake and eat it, too. Both pitched well. The fact that Willie is a veteran played into it, but Mike will have a chance to pitch down there. We know we're going to need a pitcher and we know where to reach him."

Williamson went 1-0 in nine exhibition games with a 3.12 ERA.

"This last cut is the toughest day for any manager in baseball," said Oates. "Early on, you know that the players cut are going to be young kids, but once you bring guys north, they are people that deserve to be there.

"The two people we are talking about [leaving] today are both class acts."

The Orioles have 28 players overall, with three (pitcher Sid Fernandez and infielders Manny Alexander and Paul Carey) on the disabled list.

ORIOLES ROSTER

PITCHERS (10)

Mark Eichhorn

Brad Pennington

Ben McDonald

Jim Poole

Alan Mills

Arthur Rhodes

Jamie Moyer

Lee Smith

Mike Mussina

Mark Williamson

CATCHERS (2)

Chris Hoiles

Jeff Tackett

INFIELDERS (6)

Leo Gomez

Rafael Palmeiro

Tim Hulett

Cal Ripken

Mark McLemore

Chris Sabo

OUTFIELDERS (7)

Brady Anderson

Jeffrey Hammonds

Harold Baines

Lonnie Smith

Damon Buford

Jack Voigt

Mike Devereaux

DISABLED LIST (3)

IF Manny Alexander

IF Paul Carey

P Sid Fernandez

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