Left-out O's grow with Van Slyke in

April 20, 1995|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Sun Staff Writer

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- There is a flip side to everything. Soon-to-be-signed veteran Andy Van Slyke figures to shore up the Orioles' outfield situation and improve the club's run-production potential, but his presence already has created some anxiety in the clubhouse.

If you're Jeffrey Hammonds, you welcome the addition of a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder, because he'll be right beside you while you learn at the major-league level. But if you're Curtis Goodwin or Jack Voigt or even Damon Buford, you have to wonder if the move will cost you your chance to play in the major leagues this year.

Goodwin is fatalistic. He came into camp with a chance to make the jump from Double-A to the major leagues -- and may have started to believe all the optimistic things that Orioles officials were saying about him -- but he now appears to be a long shot to win a place on the expanded 28-man roster.

"I'm looking forward to going to Rochester," said Goodwin, who is batting .278 in 18 exhibition at-bats. "I don't make the decisions, but I'm not getting my hopes up."

Manager Phil Regan indicated yesterday that either Goodwin or Buford will make the team, but he left little doubt that it would be Buford. He bats from the right side and would fit well in a platoon situation with Van Slyke, whose batting average and slugging percentage drop off dramatically against left-handed pitching.

"I think if that opportunity [platooning with Van Slyke] arises, it would be a great situation," Buford said, "but I never expect to be given anything. As a younger player, all you can hope for is to play well and -- if you do -- get an opportunity to play in the big leagues. Hopefully, that time is now."

Goodwin has done nothing to hurt his standing in the organization, but the club does not want him sitting on the bench at the major-league level when he could be playing regularly somewhere else. Buford has nothing left to prove in the minor leagues, and has some experience coming off the bench at the major-league level.

Regan said he knows that the club's continuing search for outfield help sends a mixed message to the promising youngsters in camp, but he hasn't addressed the situation with any of them yet.

"I think eventually we'll talk to them," he said. "I think most of them have been around the game long enough to understand, but we will talk to them at some point."

Some players know the score. Some don't want to know. Voigt would like to think that he still has a lot to offer, but the makeup of the Orioles roster has hurt his chances of staying with the big-league club. The addition of Van Slyke and Kevin Bass leaves him with only one thing to sell -- his versatility.

"Hopefully, they are doing this because they know what my value is off the bench," said Voigt, who delivered his first hit of the spring in yesterday's 6-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins. "If they don't feel I can help as a starter -- or in place of Jeffrey [Hammonds] if he can't play -- hopefully it's because they know the other things I can do."

If he is out of the running for a reserve outfield spot, his only hope is to beat out Jeff Manto for a utility role, but that could be another dead end.

Manto hits for more power and has more experience as an infielder. He also has caught the eye of Regan, who never misses an opportunity to compliment his efforts.

Voigt, who felt he had established himself with former manager Johnny Oates, has to wonder if there is enough time in this shortened spring to make a similar impression on the new manager. He does not sound optimistic.

"If I'm here, I'm here," he said. "If not, I guess I'll go through the waiver process and see what happens. I know I'll be somewhere. I know I'm a big-league player."

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