Manto signs one-year contract to play in Japan

January 26, 1996|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

Third baseman Jeff Manto, who hit 17 home runs in a part-time role for the Orioles last year, has signed a one-year contract with the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants of the Japanese Central League.

Manto became something of a local hero last June when he became the 24th player in major-league history to hit home runs in four consecutive at-bats. He came into the 1995 season with four major-league homers, but hit five over a three-day span June 8 to 10.

He won a utility job out of spring training, but replaced struggling Leo Gomez in the starting lineup in mid-May and played 37 straight games before a hamstring strain forced him onto the disabled list.

Manto returned to run up a nine-game hitting streak in August, but didn't figure to be a candidate for significant playing time once the Orioles signed free agent B. J. Surhoff to play third base. Jeff Huson and Bill Ripken are possible backups there, as well.

"We felt that his opportunity would probably be limited here," said Orioles assistant general manager Kevin Malone. "Because of the acquisitions we made and the status of the club, we thought it was in his best interests to secure his lifestyle."

No doubt, it was the unhappy prospect of returning to a utility role and the possibility of making a big payday (perhaps as much as $1.5 million) in Japan that convinced Manto to ask permission from the Orioles to negotiate with the Giants. He should get the chance to play regularly in Japan.

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