Orioles scouting Strawberry But Yanks reportedly ready to sign slugger

July 04, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

TORONTO -- Searching for a way to improve their outfield, the Orioles have begun scouting former New York Mets slugger Darryl Strawberry, who is playing for St. Paul (Minn.), a team in the independent Northern League. But if the Orioles' interest is sincere, they may be too late.

Strawberry reportedly will sign with the Yankees today, and it was interest from the Orioles and other teams that spurred New York to make the pre-emptive strike.

A source confirmed the Orioles began exploring the option of signing Strawberry, 34, who played for the Yankees last year. Orioles manager Davey Johnson managed Strawberry in New York, with the Mets, and current hitting coach Rick Down was the hitting coach last year with the Yankees.

Strawberry has 18 home runs and is hitting .429 for the Saints this spring.

The Orioles felt relatively secure about their outfield depth as spring training ended. However, Tony Tarasco played poorly for more than a month and was sent to Triple-A before season-ending shoulder surgery, and Jeffrey Hammonds followed him to the minors in June.

The Orioles signed veteran free agent Luis Polonia, but he has not played to expectations. They tried to make a deal with Cleveland that included outfielder Jeromy Burnitz, without success.

In addition to the outfield, Strawberry, who is earning $2,000 monthly as a member of the Saints, could serve as the designated hitter.

An eight-time All-Star with 297 career home runs, Strawberry was one of baseball's top sluggers in the mid-1980s and early 1990s before encountering trouble with drugs and alcohol.

Strawberry hit .276 with three homers in 32 games last year for the Yankees, who declined to pick up his $1.8 million option.

Pub Date: 7/04/96

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