AL's Budig is upbeat about team and game Lauds DP tandem

Orioles notebook

high on labor talks, AL-NL play

February 27, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The middle-aged man wearing the blue baseball cap and jacket and watching the Orioles' workout yesterday could have been confused for any of the Cal Ripken devotees who turn out at Fort Lauderdale Stadium.

Except this man is, in some ways, Ripken's boss. American League president Gene Budig stopped by the Orioles' camp yesterday, part of his tour through Florida, and chatted with reporters about myriad topics:

* The match of Ripken and Roberto Alomar in the Orioles' infield. "It's exciting. They are two giants of the game. . . . Baltimore has put together a very good baseball team, and that's evoking fan interest that's reflected in very strong season-ticket sales."

* The progress of the labor talks between owners and players: "From what I'm hearing, I'm optimistic on those fronts."

* How interleague play may affect the individual integrity of the two leagues in general, and his office in particular: "It was the right thing to do. It was in response to the fans. . . . I think it will help the two leagues. We still have the All-Star Game, we still have the World Series. I'm confident both leagues can be protected."

Budig, well-liked by most players and managers he meets, stood and chatted with Orioles manager Davey Johnson and shook hands with B. J. Surhoff and Alomar, before leaning against the cage and watching batting practice.

$18 million bargain

Considering Ken Griffey signed a four-year contract for $34 million with the Seattle Mariners, the Orioles got a relative bargain when they signed Alomar to a three-year deal for $18 million, with $5 million deferred.

"Owners are always complaining they don't have money, but they go and sign some players to big contracts," Alomar said. "I'm happy for [Griffey] getting that money. He deserves it. He's one of the best in the game. But for me, it was tough to get a contract this winter."

Alomar said his former team, the Toronto Blue Jays, say they are in a rebuilding mode. "But Seattle rebuilt around Griffey," he said. "[Toronto] thought I was going to sign for more money. If it was just money, I would have gone to Japan for $9 million. Money wasn't the only issue."

Alomar talked to the San Diego Padres before signing with the Orioles. "They went hard after [Craig] Biggio," Alomar said. "I called them, but they didn't want to sign me. Sometimes it's hard for Latin players."

Wrong place, wrong time

Johnson, who is holding auditions for three spots in his bullpen, sat in his office yesterday morning reading a story in the local paper about Florida Marlins right-hander Jay Powell.

Seems that Powell -- a former No. 1 pick of the Orioles who was dealt in December 1994 for second baseman Bret Barberie -- may not make the Marlins' staff despite his terrific promise because Florida is loaded with pitching. Johnson shook his head at the irony. "That's life," he said.

Around the horn

The fans at Fort Lauderdale Stadium continue to react to every move made by Ripken during workouts, much to the amusement of other players. "Bobby Bonilla hits a low liner, opposite-field home run and the fans yawn," said one player. "Cal hits a fly ball to the warning track and they go crazy." . . . Johnson has asked a number of players to practice at different positions, so he can monitor their versatility. Outfielder Mark Smith worked out at first base yesterday and broke up his teammates when he repeatedly forgot to cover the bag and couldn't remember where to throw the ball, home or second or third.

As the Orioles practiced for an hour out of sight of the fans, a woman in the stands broke up the monotony by spelling out O-R-I-O-L-E-S. . . . With third base coach Sam Perlozzo, Johnson instructed the Orioles' position players on base running yesterday, passionately imploring them to be aggressive. . . . Spring training is for learning, for Johnson learning about his players. One example is that in certain situations, he has told his players they should all attempt to break with the pitch. "I don't care if you get thrown out," he said. "This is a time for me to learn about you, who gets a good jump."

Mets phenom Bill Pulsipher will start for New York in the Orioles' second exhibition March 3. . . . The Orioles will play intrasquad games tomorrow and Thursday, and Johnson said it will give him a chance to watch his new players. "Not Cal Ripken and Roberto Alomar," he said, "some of the other guys I don't know that much about."

Orioles prospect Billy Percibal had elbow trouble in the off-season, but pitching coach Pat Dobson was extremely impressed by his workout yesterday. . . . Johnson on Jimmy Haynes: "I've seen enough to know he's a fine young pitcher. We're expecting great things out of him."

Parting shot

The worst line by a fan seeking an autograph, overheard at Sunday's workout: "Hey, No. 74, you're my favorite player. Can you sign?"

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