MINNEAPOLIS -- Pitcher Mike Mussina confirmed yesterday that he has been offered a three-year contract by the Orioles.
"It was something to work from," said Mussina, one of four Orioles eligible for salary arbitration. The others are pitcher Ben McDonald, second baseman Bret Barberie and third baseman Leo Gomez.
The Orioles first contacted Mussina's agent, Arn Tellem, about three weeks ago. But there was little immediate discussion, as Orioles general manager Roland Hemond tried to complete his roster, signing Kevin Bass and Andy Van Slyke. Mussina wondered if the Orioles were serious about the long-term deal.
Apparently, they are. The total offer of the deal is believed to be in the range of $10 million.
"In my mind, this was a legitimate offer," Mussina said, "so at least they weren't stalling for no legitimate reason. We're talking again."
Russell Smouse, club counsel for the Orioles, said, "The [talks] have been constructive, and, hopefully, we'll get something done."
The Orioles' motivation for signing Mussina to a long-term contract is twofold: First, they would guarantee that he'll remain in Baltimore, no matter what the terms of the next labor agreement; and second, they could save money over the length of the contract instead of going year to year.
There is no immediate pressure to get the deal done because Mussina has just three years-plus of major-league service and may not be eligible for free agency for another year or two.
The Orioles have made little progress in negotiations with McDonald. "They said they would look into it," said Scott Boras, the agent for McDonald. "We haven't gotten any offers."
The Orioles will exchange arbitration figures today with the four unsigned players, with the hearings to be scheduled later. No multi-year offers are expected for Gomez or Barberie.
A scare for Hoiles
Orioles catcher Chris Hoiles stayed in the game Wednesday after being hit on the helmet by a pitch from Kansas City's Rusty Meacham, and said he had nothing more than a slight headache yesterday morning.
But Hoiles acknowledged that it could've been much worse -- because he has gotten drilled much worse. In a minor-league game in 1990, a fastball hit him above the left eye. "It didn't hit any helmet," he said. "It was probably an inch from hitting me directly in the eye.
F: "Any time you get hit in the head, it's pretty scary."
Left out, and loving it
The source of this revealing statistic on left-hander Brad Pennington was Pennington himself: In just one inning of work in Wednesday's season opener in Kansas City, Pennington retired more left-handed hitters -- two, Tom Goodwin and Wally Joyner -- than he did during the 1994 season (1).
In 1994, left-handers batted .875 against Pennington, going 7-for-8.
"Right now, I'm really taking the challenge of working to get left-handers out," Pennington said.
Last night, in a shaky one-third of an inning, Pennington gave up a two-run double to the only left-handed hitter he faced, Matt Merullo.
Royals rookie Michael Tucker hit the first pitch by Mussina for a line-drive single, and someone said, "That's it, Mussina's mad at him now. He'll never get another hit against the guy."
Sure enough, Mussina got very serious with Tucker. His first-inning hit came on a fastball, but on his second at-bat,
Mussina threw three straight changeups, and Tucker swung and missed badly on the last two.
Before Mussina threw the third changeup, he shook off Hoiles' first sign. Hoiles said yesterday that was done merely to mess PTC with Tucker's mind. Hoiles' first sign was a changeup, and so was his second; they intended to throw a changeup all along.
"The second at-bat he pitched me really well," Tucker said later.
Around the horn
Manager Phil Regan said the second time around the rotation, Mussina and McDonald will be permitted to throw as many as seven innings, . . . The Twins retired Kent Hrbek's No. 14 before the game. . . . The game drew only 26,425 fans -- the Twins' smallest Opening Day crowd since they moved into the Metrodome 14 years ago. . . . Right fielder Jeffrey Hammonds started his second straight game yesterday, but Regan reiterated that Hammonds likely will sit out today and tomorrow on the artificial turf.