FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - They spent hours together yesterday, did Orioles general manager Pat Gillick and Montreal GM Jim Beattie, and all the talk paid off: After the Orioles' exhibition game with the Expos yesterday, the Orioles traded outfielder Sherman Obando to Montreal for outfielder Tony Tarasco.
Tarasco, a left-handed hitter who batted .249 with 14 homers and 24 stolen bases for Montreal last season, will be an extra outfielder for the Orioles, someone to play against tough right-handers and possibly platoon with Mike Devereaux. Tarasco is a solid defensive outfielder, as well, with a powerful throwing arm, and he could be used in the late innings as a defensive replacement.
The Orioles were working with a little bit of inside information in acquiring Tarasco. Orioles assistant general manager Kevin Malone traded for Tarasco last April, when Malone was the GM for the Expos.
Prior to yesterday's afternoon exhibition with the Expos, Malone ran into Tarasco on the field, and they agreed to meet later which they did, chatting for half an hour.
"Kevin knows what I can do," Tarasco said after that meeting. "You always want to play for someone who likes you and believes in you. It gives you confidence knowing someone like that is behind you."
Malone sat behind Gillick and Beattie in the afternoon exhibition, and in the other split-squad game in the evening. The deal was announced after the second exhibition game, in which Tarasco played. He was told about the deal during the ninth inning.
Tarasco said, "I'm happy to be with Kevin. He likes me and wants me to play. I got a lot of high hopes for the Orioles.
"It's a better team. I'll see what they have planned for me. I know they're thinking of platooning me with [Mike] Devereaux. Hopefully, I'll get a chance to play against left-handers and play all the time . . . I'm excited."
Montreal manager Felipe Alou told Tarasco Monday not to worry about the trade rumors, that there wasn't going to be a trade. "They kind of killed it over in West Palm," Tarasco said. "Everybody was downplaying it. I still didn't think anything was going to happen."
Gillick has been seeking a left-handed hitting outfield most of the spring, because the Orioles are short on left-handed hitting on their bench. Prior to the deal, the only bench candidate who hit left-handed was Jeff Huson.
The Orioles never could figure out what to do with Obando, 26, a tremendous hitter who never found a position which he could play comfortably. Obando, who batted .296, said repeatedly this spring he would not be happy returning to the minors, and when the Orioles determined they really didn't have a spot for him on the major-league team, they decided to move him.
Tony Tarasco file
Number crunching: He hit .249 with 14 homers, 24 stolen bases (( and 40 RBI in 438 at-bats for Montreal last season.
Where he's been: Tarasco came up in the minors in the Atlanta Braves organization, playing parts of 1993 and 1994 with Atlanta. Last spring, the Braves traded Tarasco to the Montreal Expos as part of the deal for Marquis Grissom.
His role with the Orioles: He'll be an extra outfielder, often used for late-inning defense, particularly for Jeffrey Hammonds or Bobby Bonilla.
The skinny: Even before spring training began, Orioles general manager Pat Gillick acknowledged his club needed one more left-handed hitting outfielder who could play solid defense. The Orioles talked with the San Diego Padres about Melvin Nieves, but when those talks fell apart, the Orioles began concentrating on Tarasco. He is a good athlete, with good power and speed, and a tremendous throwing arm. But he may be too inconsistent to be a regular player. Statistically speaking: Tarasco hit .271
before the All-Star break, and .219 afterward.
Pub Date: 3/14/96