Hoiles happily ends wait, signs $17 million deal


April 06, 1995|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,Sun Staff Writer

SARASOTA, Fla. -- The last two months of the strike probably seemed much longer for Orioles catcher Chris Hoiles than to most of his union brethren.

Sitting at his home in Bowling Green, Ohio, Hoiles knew that the instant the strike was over, a verbal agreement on a five-year, $17.25 million contract would kick in -- assuming that the Orioles would honor that deal, even though baseball's economic framework had changed several times.

As it turned out, though, Hoiles' agent never had to ask the Orioles whether the verbal agreement would be honored; Orioles owner Peter Angelos took the initiative and told representative Dennis Gilbert that the deal would stand.

"I was worried about it," Hoiles said yesterday, when the completion of the contract was announced. "Some of the negotiations that went on before [the owners' signing freeze] sounded great. Then when [the rules] starting changing a little bit, yeah, I was worried. But Mr. Angelos kept his word.

Hoiles' contract is the longest for a major-league catcher since Terry Kennedy signed a six-year contract with the Padres in 1983.

"The whole thing pretty much blows my mind," Hoiles said.

Eichhorn optimistic

Pitcher Mark Eichhorn, coming back from surgery on his right shoulder, arrived in camp yesterday and immediately camped out in the trainer's room, where he'll spend much of his time in the weeks to come.

Eichhorn suffered a slight tear in his rotator cuff, and he will, in all likelihood, begin the season on the disabled list and could conceivably miss the first half of the season, a big blow to the Orioles bullpen. Last year, Eichhorn pitched in 43 games, with a 2.15 ERA.

He says now he began to feel pain in his shoulder before the players strike began last Aug. 12. Eichhorn had an magnetic resonance imaging scan in August, but the test did not reveal any tears.

Eichhorn was working out in January and was surprised to feel similar pain. He had another MRI, and this time, the tear showed. Eichhorn, who will earn $537,500 this season, says he expects to return relatively soon -- he won't say exactly when -- pitching at full strength.

"You've got to understand," said Eichhorn, "I don't throw the ball 90 mph. I don't rely on pitches like that. I'll be back."

New home in offing?

The Chicago White Sox are reportedly considering vacating their spring training site in Sarasota to move to Arizona, but Angelos isn't sure whether his team would take over Chicago's facility here.

"I really don't know at this point," said Angelos. "We're exploring other options at this point."

Angelos wouldn't expound on those. But there are some obvious possibilities -- the New York Yankees are moving out of their Fort Lauderdale home, and Orlando wants a club.

The more the merrier

Nine players practiced at the Orioles' first voluntary workout yesterday: pitchers Alan Mills, Arthur Rhodes and Jamie Moyer, and position players Jeff Manto, Jack Voigt, Hoiles, Jim Wawruck, Paul Carey and Lance Marks.

Marks is a free-agent first baseman released by Atlanta.

Catcher Matt Nokes later joined in, and other players rolled in during the day, including shortstop Cal Ripken, who spent most of his time in the locker room talking with teammates.

Speaking of Ripken . . .

Overheard at the workout: A Florida TV reporter asking if Ripken's shot at breaking the consecutive-games record is over because the season has been shortened, and then asking who holds the record.

Around the horn

The Orioles are expected to look into the possibility of signing veteran center fielder Brett Butler, who was dumped by the Los Angeles Dodgers Tuesday night. . . . Basketball broadcaster Dick Vitale appeared at yesterday's workout and talked with Orioles manager Phil Regan and the players.

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