Barberie, Gomez agree to Cubs contracts Second, third basemen given minor-league deals

January 25, 1996|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

Third baseman Leo Gomez and second baseman Bret Barberie, who opened the 1995 season as half of the Orioles' starting infield, agreed to minor-league contracts with the Chicago Cubs yesterday and were invited to major-league spring training camp.

Gomez, 29, batted .236 with four home runs and 12 RBIs during a disappointing season in which he lost his place in the starting lineup to journeyman Jeff Manto in May and suffered a season-ending ankle injury in August. The Orioles toyed with the idea of signing him to a Triple-A contract this off-season, but the acquisition of free agent B. J. Surhoff left little room for him on the major-league roster.

Barberie was acquired by the Orioles in a December 1994 trade that sent 1993 No. 1 draft choice Jay Powell to the Florida Marlins. He replaced Mark McLemore as the starting second baseman, but ended up sharing the position with utility infielder Manny Alexander, partly because he managed just two RBIs in his first 43 games.

In a strange statistical season, Barberie batted a respectable -- but unproductive -- .292 before the All-Star break, then hit .194 and drove in 23 runs in his last 48 games. His performance did nothing to discourage the Orioles from pursuing free-agent second baseman Roberto Alomar, who signed a multi-year contract and made Barberie expendable.

The Orioles still have Alexander under contract and they recently brought back Bill Ripken into the organization under a Triple-A contract to compete for a utility role.

Gomez and Barberie were among the four arbitration-eligible players left untendered by the Orioles on Dec. 20, along with Ben McDonald and relief pitcher Terry Clark. McDonald signed a two-year contract with the Milwaukee Brewers last week.

The Orioles are looking for an extra catcher, but general manager Pat Gillick may wait until spring training to fill that need.

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