Belle rejects five-year, $43 million Indians deal He would have become majors' best-paid player

April 12, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

Cleveland slugger Albert Belle turned down a five-year offer worth $43 million, according to sources within the Indians organization, prompting the club to break off contract talks.

Belle, who becomes a free agent after this season, was offered a deal that would pay him an average of $8.6 million per year, with $1.25 million deferred per year. That average would make him the highest-paid player in baseball; Seattle Mariners outfielder Ken Griffey signed a $34 million, four-year deal during the off-season, a contract worth $8.5 million per year.

"We gave it a good shot," said Cleveland Indians GM John Hart. "We've got nothing to apologize for. We just didn't get a deal, so we feel it's in the best interest of the club to back away. So we did."

Benitez throws pain-free

Orioles reliever Armando Benitez threw in the bullpen for about five minutes yesterday and reported no pain on the inside of his right elbow. Manager Davey Johnson said Benitez will throw again before tomorrow's game.

The Orioles aim to get Benitez to full strength by Tuesday, when they begin a series with Boston.

Johnson said he was close to being in trouble Wednesday, when he used Roger McDowell and Jesse Orosco after starting pitcher David Wells. "I had kind of shot the works out there," he said.

Surhoff fitting in

When he first starting hitting B. J. Surhoff ground balls in spring training, Orioles coach Sam Perlozzo wanted Surhoff to just fit in with the other infielders. Cal Ripken, Roberto Alomar and Rafael Palmeiro -- good defensive players -- play the other infield positions, and if Surhoff made errors or looked shaky, he would draw attention, and he wouldn't fit in.

Seven games into the season, Surhoff has fit in perfectly. Seven games, no errors, and a series of good plays. In the third inning of Wednesday's game, Cleveland had a run in with one out and Carlos Baerga at second when Belle hit a ball hard, to Surhoff's right.

Surhoff, who was playing Belle to pull, could've backhanded the ball. But he got in front of the grounder, and when it took an erratic hop on its last bounce, Surhoff caught the ball with his glove backed up against his midsection. "A catcher's reaction," said Surhoff, who used to play the position.

The Orioles' third base defense was one of the bigger question marks going into spring training, and Surhoff has been solid.

"He's shown he has a quick first step, and he's not afraid of the ball," Perlozzo said. "He'll get to the ball, and he feels comfortable that if he can't field the ball cleanly, he can [knock it down and] pick the ball up and make the play."

Alexander stepping out

Johnson talked to utility infielder Manny Alexander about developing his outfield skills, in an effort to get Alexander more playing time. "He told me to work out there," Alexander said.

Alexander said again he doesn't want to play the outfield. But during batting practice yesterday, he worked on catching fly balls off the right-field scoreboard and fielding balls in the right-field corner.

If Alexander establishes himself as a serviceable outfielder, he may start some games out there against left-handed pitchers.

Alomar dash OK with O's

Johnson said he talked to Roberto Alomar about his mad dash around the bases in the first inning of Wednesday's game, when he was thrown out at home trying to score on a hit-and-run single by Rafael Palmeiro with one out.

Johnson told Alomar he didn't mind the aggressiveness, but preferred he would've tried the play with two out.

Pit stop for Labonte

Driver Terry Labonte, the Cal Ripken of NASCAR circles with over 500 straight starts, will throw out the first ball Tuesday.

Pub Date: 4/12/96

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