Lee says his sore arm precludes O's release Left-hander likely to file grievance for '96 pay

Orioles notebook

March 27, 1996|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The Orioles trimmed the roster again yesterday, but the club's decision to release left-handed reliever Mark Lee may end up being more trouble than it was worth.

Lee was waived and given his unconditional release just days after telling club officials that he was pitching with soreness in his shoulder, so he likely will file a grievance through the Major League Baseball Players Association demanding full payment of his 1996 major-league salary.

"If my arm was healthy, that's a different story," Lee said. "The last few days, I saw a doctor and they told me to shut it down until Thursday. They've put me in a tough situation. They tell me I need rest and can't throw, then they turn around and tell me I'm healthy. . . . Obviously, teams aren't going to sign me if they think I can't throw."

Major League Baseball continues to operate under the terms of an expired labor agreement that limits the right of clubs to release injured players. The Orioles dropped Lee before the deadline to cut a player without being responsible for his entire major-league salary, but his agent likely will argue that he was released because of his uncertain physical condition and not for economic or competitive reasons.

"It seems like that to me," Lee said. "I understand the competitive part of it. They have Arthur Rhodes and Jesse

Orosco, and they say they don't need more than two left-handed relievers at the major-league level, but I thought I would be pitching somewhere."

The Orioles front office does not seem concerned. Assistant general manager Kevin Malone said yesterday that the club decided before Lee came up sore that he likely would not be a good fit for the club in 1996.

"You can release a guy at any time," Malone said. "It had nothing to do with him being hurt. He was released because the coaching staff and all the persons involved in the decision felt he could not help the Baltimore Orioles."

Lee signed a split contract (one that allows the club to pay a lower salary if the player is sent to the minor leagues) and figured -- at worst -- he would be sent to Rochester. He was still holding out hope that he could get a chance to pitch and keep open his options with other major-league clubs.

That won't be easy now. He was 2-0 with a 4.86 ERA in 39 appearances for the Orioles last year, but he is a 31-year-old journeyman who has thrown just 127 1/3 innings at the major-league level.

It's tough enough to find a job in late March. It will be even more difficult after pitching just four innings in the Grapefruit League.

Wells: I'm OK

Johnson said Monday that left-hander David Wells had been bothered by some soreness near his pitching elbow, but Wells indicated yesterday that he was fine and trainer Jamie Reed said Wells was not pitching with any pain during Monday's rocky performance against Cleveland. "That wasn't a problem," Reed said. "We didn't even treat him today."

Webster deal close?

Malone indicated yesterday that the Orioles are ready to sign catcher Lenny Webster, released Monday by the Philadelphia Phillies, but apparently only if he's willing to start the season with the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings.

Webster would join Cesar Devarez in reserve in case the club needed a second or third catcher at the major-league level.

Hoiles: Don't believe hype

Catcher Chris Hoiles jokingly chided reporters yesterday for getting only one side of the story on his apparently arthritic shoulder.

"Why don't you write the story no one has written yet, that my shoulder is OK?" Hoiles said. "Nobody has written that yet."

Orioles officials confirmed last week that Hoiles has been suffering from an arthritic condition in his shoulder, but Hoiles tried to clarify the situation yesterday.

"The doctors have never said for sure that it's arthritis or something else," he said. "They say that they're about 90 percent sure that it's arthritis. If that's what it is, it's always going to be there to some degree, but it's been OK. Just because I've thrown out two of nine runners this spring doesn't mean my shoulder is sore."

Play of the day

Center fielder Brady Anderson was credited with an assist and a putout on the same play yesterday, when pitcher Kent Mercker cut off his throw to the plate and hung up Los Angeles between first and second base. Mercker threw to second to catch Piazza in a rundown and Anderson alertly covered second base on the back end of the play. If you were scoring, that went into the book as an 8-1-6-3-8.

Ups and downs

Highlights and lowlights from the Orioles' 9-8, 10-inning loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers yesterday:

Ups

Designated hitter B. J. Surhoff had two hits and drove in three runs, joining Bobby Bonilla and Manny Alexander in the club lead with 10 RBIs this spring.

Jeffrey Hammonds continues to sizzle. He had two hits in four at-bats to raise his spring average to .423.

Reliever Jimmy Myers pitched two more scoreless innings, dropping his ERA to 1.13.

Downs

Left-hander Kent Mercker gave up six runs (four earned) on eight hits in five innings.

Reliever Roger McDowell surrendered three runs on four hits in 2 1/3 innings.

Cal Ripken was hitless in three at-bats, dropping his Grapefruit League average to .220.

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