Hectic start for Hemond

April 04, 1995|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,Sun Staff Writer

SARASOTA, Fla. -- An air of anticipation hung over the Orioles' training complex yesterday, but most were too busy to notice. Although no players arrived -- they have been told by the union to stay away until tomorrow -- there is much to do.

General manager Roland Hemond was in his office, besieged by phone calls from agents dangling unemployed clients. A new sign guarded the hallway leading to his door, the sign reading ORIOLES STAFF ONLY BEYOND THIS POINT to guarantee privacy at a time when Hemond will be involved in almost constant contract or trade negotiation.

"I've gotten about 12 to 15 calls from agents, saying they've got players available," Hemond said.

That was at 5 p.m. Later in the evening, baseball sources said that Hemond spoke with the agent for pitcher John Franco. If Franco agrees to sign a two-year deal in the range of $5.2 million, Hemond, who declined to discuss negotiations, may wait until Friday to announce any deal; Franco's former employer, the New York Mets, have until then to offer him salary arbitration, and if they do, the Orioles would have to surrender a draft pick to sign Franco.

But Franco, said to be leaning toward signing with the Orioles as late as Sunday, may decide to remain with his hometown Mets for a two-year, $4 million deal. That would create a major problem for the Orioles, because there aren't any closers near Franco's caliber on the open market, and the Orioles may have to open the season with Armando Benitez -- a veteran of 10 major-league innings -- as their bullpen ace.

Montreal's John Wetteland also is available, but club sources indicate the Expos would want Benitez included in the deal, something the Orioles won't be willing to do.

Hemond also may have discussed making final a five-year contract with catcher Chris Hoiles, which the Orioles tentatively agreed to before the February signing freeze went into affect. Under the terms of the agreement, Hoiles would receive a $500,000 signing bonus; he would get $2.75 million for this season (some of it already lost because of the strike), $3.25 million in '96, $3.5 million in '97 and '98, and $3.75 million in 1999.

Hoiles also has incentive clauses: $100,000 for winning the AL MVP Award, $50,000 for being named MVP of the League Championship Series, the World Series or All-Star Game, and $50,000 for winning the Gold Glove. He'd get $50,000 for being elected to the All-Star team by fans, $25,000 for being selected. If Hoiles reaches 540 plate appearances or plays in 135 games, he'd get $60,000.

Meanwhile, they're getting the clubhouse ready for Hoiles and ,, the rest of the Orioles. Over the wood lockers, attendant Fred Tyler and bat boy Butch Bennett hung cardboard placards bearing players' names. BARBERIE. ALEXANDER. RIPKEN. Position players on one side of the lockers, pitchers and catchers on the other.

One by one, Tyler lifted jerseys out of a box and hung them in the lockers.

They have a labor truce. They have the uniforms ready. All they need now is the players.

Outfielder Jack Voigt, the team's assistant player representative, was calling teammates and passing the word around: The earliest voluntary workout allowed by the union is tomorrow, and the mandatory reporting date is Friday.


The Orioles likely will be a full-time road team in spring training, Hemond said. The Orioles will work out at their Sarasota complex full-time, and Hemond said his team's opponents may be limited to those teams in the surrounding area -- White Sox (Clearwater), Pirates (Bradenton), Rangers (Port Charlotte) and Cardinals (St. Petersburg).

Team vice chairman Joe Foss also is discussing possible exhibition games at Camden Yards for the weekend of April 22-23, and possibly April 24. The Phillies and Rockies, who had exhibitions scheduled April 2 and 3, have expressed an interest to re-schedule those games.

* American League vice president Phyllis Merhige is working on the spring training schedule, something she'd much prefer over dealing with the conflict between Orioles owner Peter Angelos and the league.

AL president Gene Budig, she said, went to Chicago on Sunday knowing how he would penalize Angelos and the Orioles -- whether it was forfeits or suspensions or fines. "Gene was prepared to do what he had to do," Merhige said. "But we're much happier this way."

Merhige said only a handful of people -- Budig, league lawyers, herself -- knew what the decision was.

So, what was it?

"Really funny," she said. "That's a question that we never have to answer."

Angelos and Budig chatted cordially in Chicago, and the issue of the possible forfeits never raised.

* New manager Phil Regan sat smiling in his office and talked about some of his plans and expectations with the return of the players.

The first thing he must learn in this shortened spring is what kind of condition the players are in. "Then you go from there in making out your [workout] schedule."

It will take about three days for Regan and his staff to implement the team's fundamentals and he's going to try to make sure position players don't throw too much too soon, to guard against sore arms.

The staff's top pitchers, such as Mike Mussina and Ben McDonald, will throw about 13-15 innings. In a normal spring, they would get about 35 innings. Regan will use a minimum of four pitchers per game.

Depending on how much throwing is done by the pitchers in spring training, Regan figures that his Opening Day starter -- he doesn't yet know who that will be -- will pitch six innings in the opener.

"At most," Regan said. "Probably five."

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