O's spanning the globe in search of young talent Venezuela, Australia eyed, with no first-round pick

Orioles Notebook

April 13, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

Orioles assistant general manager Kevin Malone and scouting director Gary Nickels are flying to Florida to watch Jackson Mellian, a 16-year-old Venezuelan outfielder, go through a workout at Twin Lakes Complex in Sarasota. Mellian's agent, Scott Boras, sent a fax to every team inviting them to watch Mellian and place a bid, and Malone figures about 20 teams will be present.

The Orioles also are tracking players in Australia, some of whom they may attempt to sign in July, when those particular prospects become eligible to make a deal in the United States.

Malone began scouting amateur players over the weekend, in preparation for the June draft. The Orioles' first pick is No. 51 overall, the Orioles having forfeited their first-round selection when they signed Roberto Alomar.

The Orioles conceivably could make strong bids on international prospects, with the extra money they're not spending on a first-round pick.

Life is good for Gillick

Life isn't quite as hectic now as it was in December for Orioles general manager Pat Gillick, who added nine players in 47 days after taking the job last fall. He's making calls, checking in with other teams, and eight out of the first nine games of the year, he's had the pleasure of watching the Orioles beat somebody.

"We've probably gotten better pitching than anybody thought we would after the last couple of weeks of spring training," he said.

David Wells, Kent Mercker, Jesse Orosco and Randy Myers were among those who struggled in camp.

Gillick said he still is looking for another catcher, a strong defensive catcher who can remain in Triple-A. Gillick said he came close to completing one deal. "I wouldn't say it's dead," he said. He's also looking for right-handed relief, and another outfielder, preferably a right-handed hitter.

X. Hernandez available

The Cincinnati Reds recently designated right-handed reliever Xavier Hernandez for assignment, and the Orioles could acquire him and pay $109,000 of his $600,000 salary. Hernandez went 7-2 with a 4.60 ERA pitching for Davey Johnson in Cincinnati last year, striking out 84 hitters in 90 innings.

Some scouts say, however, that he has lost some of his fastball. Johnson said yesterday he thought Hernandez did a good job for him last year; Gillick and Malone indicated the Orioles wouldn't have any interest.

Relievers find niche

The bullpen allowed its first earned run of the year Thursday, when Cleveland outfielder Jeromy Burnitz homered in the ninth inning. One earned run, 20 innings.

As far as Johnson is concerned, the success of the bullpen has been one of the best things about the Orioles. "You really can't tell much from spring training," Johnson said. "[Pat] Dobson is running everything, and he's trying to get guys their work and you really don't get a feel for how all the pieces are going to fit together.

"By and large, I went into the season with guys I'd never seen in new roles -- Arthur [Rhodes], Armando [Benitez] and Jimmy Myers. I didn't know the league, and I didn't know how they would match up. What's great is they handled the roles they've been given."

The fact that everyone knows their roles, said setup man Roger McDowell, is an immense help. "You have an idea when you're watching the game when you'll be used," McDowell said.

Looking for progress

When Jimmy Haynes starts against Minnesota tomorrow, Johnson will be looking for progress. Not a shutout or a win, just progress, throwing more strikes or a better fastball or with more consistency. "Something positive to build off of," said Johnson.

Johnson likes building off positives. Johnson said closer Myers wanted to pitch the ninth inning of the 14-4 blowout of Cleveland Thursday, but Johnson decided to leave Rhodes in the game so he could pitch a little longer -- three innings, one more than in his first appearance -- and earn his first professional save.

DH easier for Johnson

Running a game with the designated hitter, Johnson said, is completely different.

"So much revolves around the pitcher in the NL," said Johnson, who managed for 10 seasons in the Senior Circuit. "I'll give you an example. Suppose David Wells gives up three runs in the first inning, and then he comes back and pitches great, with a low pitch count. It's the fifth inning, you're down 3-0 to Greg Maddux, and you load the bases and Wells is coming up. What do you do?"

Pinch-hit for Wells? "You've got to," Johnson said. "You've got to take him out. This may be the one chance you get at Maddux."

That being said, does Johnson prefer the DH? "I guess in my brain-dead state," Johnson said, "I like it. That's the job I've got, with the DH. I love offense. I love to score runs."

Pub Date: 4/13/96

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