Yankees beat O's to signing Strawberry Outfielder may make debut here after All-Star break


July 05, 1996|By Jason LaCanfora | Jason LaCanfora,SUN STAFF

Darryl Strawberry, who spent most of this season in the independent Northern League, signed with the New York Yankees yesterday and homered twice in his first game with their Triple-A club in Columbus, Ohio. He is tentatively scheduled to make his Yankees debut in Baltimore during a four-game series right after the All-Star break.

The Orioles began scouting Strawberry a few days ago, and a source close to Strawberry said the Orioles were prepared to offer him a minor-league contract if the team was impressed by his play. The Orioles never made a contract offer to Strawberry, though, before he signed with the Yankees.

Strawberry's contract is prorated based on an annual salary of $700,000. So, he stands to make between $300,000 and $350,000 this year. There is an option for next year at $750,000 with incentives that could put the contract over $1 million.

"I wish him luck except against us," said Orioles manager Davey Johnson, Strawberry's manager with the New York Mets. "He played awfully well for me. He certainly has fallen on hard times."

Johnson said he told assistant general manager Kevin Malone awhile back that he might want to start scouting the former All-Star.

"I didn't hear any response, then Pat [Gillick, general manager] called me [Wednesday] night to say they were looking at him. The last time I think I saw Darryl he was in a Dodgers uniform and he wasn't playing because he had a back problem. I guess that's two or three years ago."

Strawberry has never been the same since leaving Johnson and the Mets. He struggled on and off the field in Los Angeles. Strawberry went to court for not paying taxes and he dealt with substance abuse and alcohol problems.

"If somebody got hurt here, and we signed him, he could be an impact player," said Orioles reliever Jesse Orosco, a former Mets teammate. "I don't care if he took two years off [from baseball], Darryl can hurt you. New York gave him the chance to come back and be an impact player again. I hope he's not going to do it against us."

Alomar's drought continues

Roberto Alomar continues to struggle at the plate.

Alomar went 0-for-5 yesterday and is 22-for-97 (.227) in his last 25 games since ending his career-high 22-game hitting streak on June 9, the day after his average peaked at .410. Alomar has just one RBI in his past 19 games and is 0-for-14 with runners in scoring position. He is batting .355.

Huson decision due

The Orioles are going to have to make a decision on utility man Jeff Huson's future with the club soon.

Huson will finish his minor-league rehabilitation stint by playing with the Rochester Red Wings this weekend. Huson played well in stints at Single-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie.

"I'm going to fly back to Baltimore Sunday night and I'll be here for our workout on Wednesday," Huson said. "I'm supposed to meet with the team then. As far as anything after that, I don't know."

Huson, who has not played since May 17, said he feels great and has no ill effects from his arthroscopic knee surgery.

"I think I feel even better than before [hurting the knee]," Huson said. "It feels much better than I thought it would. I absolutely feel no pain."

But that doesn't assure Huson a spot on the roster when he comes off the disabled list. The Orioles have two other utility players -- Bill Ripken and Manny Alexander -- and Alexander, 25, is still considered a prospect.

Huson, 31, is out of options and can not be sent to the minors.

Stephens: It's unbelievable

John Stephens, the 16-year-old Australian pitcher the Orioles signed on Tuesday, worked out with the team yesterday and threw in the bullpen before throwing out the first pitch.

Stephens was awe-struck by the field and facilities at Camden Yards and the size of the crowd.

"It's unbelievable," Stephens said. "There's nothing like this in Australia. I went to Frederick the other day and the stadium there was better than anything I'd ever seen in Australia. I'm very nervous and excited to be here."

Stephens is too young to play minor-league ball this year but he will participate in a minicamp this fall.

Stephens said his father first got him interested in playing T-ball and he stuck with the sport while most Australian youths were playing soccer or rugby.

Now it's paid off in a $500,000 signing bonus that Stephens said he plans to use to buy a car (in another year, when he's old enough to drive in Australia) and invest the rest.

O's almost All-Star

The Orioles gave Rafael Palmeiro a welcome befitting an All-Star for his first at-bat yesterday.

Palmeiro, who was not selected to the team despite his 21 homers and 76 RBIs, got a special introduction. Alomar, Brady Anderson and Cal Ripken, the three hitters in front of Palmeiro in the lineup, are all All-Stars and were introduced as such their first time up.

P.A. announcer Rex Barney referred to Palmeiro as "Baltimore's very own All-Star" before his first at-bat, to which Palmeiro smiled and laughed.

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