Hemond touches base with Gant's agent

May 13, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Orioles general manager Roland Hemond expressed interest in Ron Gant to Eric Goldschmidt, the injured outfielder's agent, but Hemond said he does not expect to speak again with Goldschmidt for several weeks.

Gant, released in spring training by the Atlanta Braves, suffered a fractured right leg in a February motocross accident two days after he signed a one-year, $5.5 million contract. By releasing Gant, the Braves were responsible for $945,000 of the contract.

"We just made contact to let them know we are interested in being kept posted on his progress," Hemond said. "I told Eric Goldschmidt to let us know when he feels we should be talking again, once he thinks he's in shape to be observed. He said it would be several weeks. He's just doing light work, exercising, hitting off the tee. That doesn't say he's anywhere close to being ready."

Hemond and Goldschmidt said they did not discuss any financial terms in their one phone conversation.

The Orioles have Brady Anderson in left field, Mike Devereaux in center and Jeffrey Hammonds in right, provided he recovers from a strained right knee as quickly as the club anticipates. They're everyday players when healthy. Designated hitter Harold Baines sits against some left-handed pitching, but a part-time DH role is not what Gant has in mind.

"The team that signs him, the only thing we ask is that he's in the lineup every day, whether in the outfield or at designated hitter if it's an American League team, or a combination of both," Goldschmidt said.

Orioles manager Johnny Oates, when asked about Gant before last night's exhibition game against Triple-A Rochester, said he had not given any thought to how Gant would fit in, because he didn't know the Orioles had any interest.

"That's the first I've heard of that," Oates said of the Gant contact, first reported yesterday in the Washington Post. "So it obviously isn't far enough along for Roland to ask me what I think of it."

Goldschmidt said yesterday he is seeking a contract for the rest of 1994 for Gant, who does not wish to be locked into a long-term deal.

"It gives Ronnie a chance to see how he likes it, and it gives the ballclub a chance to see how he holds up physically," Goldschmidt said. "It benefits both people, gives both sides a chance to get comfortable. Whatever club he signs with is going to have the opportunity to sign him long-term during the season."

The Orioles' interest is similar to past inquiries made by the San Francisco Giants, Houston Astros, Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers and New York Mets. In a word, cautious. Like the other teams, the Orioles want to see Gant run before getting seriously involved.

Unlike the Orioles, the Giants talked contract terms and removed themselves from contention. Said San Francisco GM Bob Quinn: "Based on the numbers they presented, our club can't afford Ron Gant. Period. End of story."

The Tigers and Mets also appear to have dropped out of contention. Goldschmidt indicated that the teams still interested Houston, Boston and perhaps the Orioles -- are in a holding pattern.

"I would say we'll get down to the nitty-gritty when he's pretty close to beginning some sort of rehab assignment," Goldschmidt said. "That will probably be at some point in early June. He'll have to work out a little and start playing in some games."

Goldschmidt said he could envision Gant playing in 80 games this season.

Gant, 29, hit .274 with 36 home runs and 117 RBIs for the Braves last season. In 20 National League Championship Series games the past three seasons, Gant hit .211 and did not hit a home run. In 11 World Series games in 1991 and '92, Gant hit .237 without a home run.

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