O's bolster outfield by adding Bass

April 15, 1995|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,Sun Staff Writer

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The market for aged free agents is bleak, and outfielder Kevin Bass, 35, thought he might retire. "It was looking grim," he said.

But -- surprise -- Orioles general manager Roland Hemond, apparently tired of waiting for outfielder Andy Van Slyke to accept a $1 million offer, called Bass' agent on Thursday.

Within 24 hours, Bass became an Oriole. Yesterday morning, he agreed to a one-year, minor-league contract. Unless he looks absolutely horrible or if he's hurt during spring training, he'll be added to the 40-man roster before the start of the season.

He gets a $250,000 base salary, and could earn another $160,000 in incentives. Bass will get $40,000 if he plays between 70-89 games, another $40,000 for games No. 90-109, another $40,000 for games No. 110-129, and another $40,000 for No. 130 and beyond.

It's doubtful he'll achieve all those incentives, because Bass is, for now, penciled in as a part-time outfielder and pinch-hitter. How much he plays will correlate directly with whether rookie outfielder Curtis Goodwin makes the team, and the condition of Jeffrey Hammonds' surgically repaired right knee.

If Goodwin and Hammonds are in the lineup, Bass' primary duty will be as a pinch-hitter, something at which he's very good. Playing for the Houston Astros last year, Bass batted .348 (9-for-26) in that role.

When he started, Bass hit .308, and he finished the season at .310 (in 203 at-bats), with a .483 slugging percentage. A switch-hitter, Bass batted .420 against lefties in '94, .254 against right-handers; throughout his career, however, he's been much stronger against right-handers.

"I see him as a role-type player who could really help our ballclub," said Orioles manager Phil Regan. "It's probably a good possibility he'll be playing a lot at the start of the season."

Bass is expected to arrive in Sarasota today, work out there a couple days and then be ready to play by the middle of next week.

The Orioles' interest in Van Slyke may now hinge strictly on Hammonds' knee. If Hammonds has problems, they could re-open talks with Van Slyke. If Hammonds is sound -- and all indications are he'll be in the lineup Opening Day -- then Van Slyke must look elsewhere for employment.

"I think we're OK with the club as it is right now," said Hemond. "There's no [need] to add another player in the outfield."

The Orioles must create a spot on the 40-man roster for Bass, because they are at the limit.

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