Higuera scores with good rebound

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

March 07, 1995|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,Sun Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Former 20-game winner Ted Higuera intrigued the Orioles' coaching staff Saturday by throwing well in a tryout. But manager Phil Regan expressed caution; before making any judgments, he wanted to see how the left-hander rebounded for his second workout.

Well, Higuera threw again yesterday -- and he was even better, displaying a live fastball, breaking pitches of two different speeds, and a changeup. The Orioles are very interested.

After the 15-minute bullpen session, Regan and assistant general manager Frank Robinson both spoke to Higuera about remaining in the Orioles' training camp. Robinson said Higuera will fly to his home in Mexico today, but will return in "a week or 10 days" to continue his workouts with the Orioles.

"We'd like to keep him in camp," Regan said. "I don't know how that's possible, but we'll figure something out."

The Orioles are in a Catch-22 with Higuera: They would like him under contract, but if they sign him to a major-league deal he immediately would join the ranks of the striking union. Because Higuera is coming back from shoulder surgery, Regan would like him in camp, throwing regularly and building his arm strength.

They would prefer, then, to sign Higuera to a minor-league contract and have him report to camp. But Higuera has said he wants to wait until the strike is over before signing any deal.

"His representative has indicated he's not prepared to make a decision," said Orioles general manager Roland Hemond.

New twist on replacement ball

There are no replacement players in the Orioles camp, but they played a version of replacement baseball in their intrasquad game at Al Lang Stadium yesterday. Because of a shortage of pitchers, the Orioles played the last five innings with coaches Sammy Snider and Al Bumbry throwing to hitters from behind a protective screen.

Snyder came on in the top of the third, and pitched to both sides through the fifth. Bumbry pitched the sixth and seventh. The premise was somewhat absurd, because the game was effectively reduced to batting practice. Runners couldn't steal bases, and any ball hit back off the screen was an automatic out.

The hitters drove balls all over the park, particularly against Snyder, who allowed four runs in his first half-inning and two runs in his second half (the game, played before about 150 fans, was called after seven innings, mercifully, with the score tied at 7-all).

"We saved the pitchers, that was the important thing," Snyder said. "I enjoyed it. I'd say the hitters enjoyed themselves, wouldn't you?"

Perhaps Regan did not. He left the field without meeting the media.

Miscellaneous

The Orioles' Double-A and Triple-A minor-leaguers will play the Class A Frederick affiliate on Saturday. . . . Phyllis Merhige, the AL vice president of administration and media affairs, said any further cancellations of Orioles' exhibition games likely will occur this weekend. All Orioles exhibitions through March 13 have been called off, but because of the collapse of the labor talks and the organization's refusal to field replacement players, more cancellations are inevitable.

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