Ripken gets say, not job, at short O's hear out All-Star, but look at free agents

December 03, 1996|By Jason LaCanfora | Jason LaCanfora,SUN STAFF

After meeting with Cal Ripken and his representatives 12 days ago about his possible move to third base, the Orioles have continued to pursue potential replacements at shortstop.

Orioles general manager Pat Gillick, assistant GM Kevin Malone and manager Davey Johnson (by speakerphone) spent two to three hours discussing the matter with Ripken and Ron Shapiro, Michael Maas and Ira Rainess, all of whom represent the shortstop in some capacity. The meeting took place Nov. 21 at Shapiro's downtown law office.

Shapiro said it is his policy not to discuss meetings when they may lead to contract negotiations. Ripken's contract expires after the 1997 season. Shapiro and the Orioles share a policy of not negotiating during the season.

The Orioles have been courting several shortstops this off-season with the possibility of moving Ripken to third. Several weeks ago, Ripken and Shapiro asked the Orioles if they could discuss the issue.

A source close to Ripken, 36, said he had heard and read several reports about the move and wanted the opportunity to learn firsthand of the team's intentions. The source said Ripken realizes his potential to excel at third, but does not want the move to weaken the team at shortstop.

"Cal had the opportunity to express himself and we did the same thing," Malone said. "It was a very productive meeting. Our philosophies are on the same page.

"We told Cal that if we can upgrade at shortstop and make the team better, that's what we're looking to do -- not just at shortstop but at all positions. We won't just move Cal for the sake of doing it."

If Ripken isn't moved, Malone said the Orioles would have interest in Boston Red Sox free-agent third baseman Tim Naehring. Naehring, 30, is injury prone but hit .288 with 17 homers last year and has improved steadily in the field.

The Orioles are considering several options at shortstop.

Gillick spoke with the representative for Oakland A's free agent Mike Bordick over the weekend, and is scheduled to get back in touch with him this week. Bordick, 31, a defensive standout who hit .240 in 1996 while earning $4.2 million, said last week he would probably want to speak with Ripken before signing with Baltimore.

Bordick's agent said he has not received any offers yet and his discussion with Gillick was very general. The Orioles also renewed their interest in free-agent starters Bob Tewksbury and Terry Mulholland, who also are represented by Bordick's agent, during the discussion.

New York Yankees free agent Tony Fernandez, who played third and short for Johnson in Cincinnati, also is being considered at shortstop. Sources say the Orioles already have made an offer to Fernandez, 34, a lifetime .285 hitter and former Gold Glove fielder who was hurt all of last season.

The Orioles have not contacted the agent for Kevin Elster in a week, but Malone said they remain interested in him as well.

"Those are possibilities for consideration, but I can't say we've come to any conclusions," Malone said of all the aforementioned shortstop candidates. "Those would be guys we'd consider possibly as an upgrade."

Scratch Shawon Dunston from that list. The Orioles spoke with Dunston's agent a few times to express interest in the 33-year-old, but yesterday he signed a one-year deal with the Chicago Cubs worth a reported $2 million.

Little-used backup shortstop Manny Alexander won't unseat Ripken either, though he is drawing some interest from other teams. Malone confirmed that the Atlanta Braves have talked to the Orioles about Alexander, but said a trade is not looming.

"It's just one of many, many discussions," Malone said. "Manny is still an option to be part of this club in 1997."

The Orioles are trying to address several other positions as well:

Free-agent outfielders Moises Alou and Darryl Hamilton remain possibilities. Hamilton's agent said he expects an offer from the Orioles sometime this week, and said he also is meeting with other clubs. The Orioles met in Houston last week with Hamilton, 32, who is seeking a three-year deal in the $11 million range.

Malone said the team has intentions of speaking with Hamilton again this week. Malone said he has yet to contact the agent for Alou, whom he knows well from his time as GM of the Montreal Expos, but is likely to do so soon.

The Orioles' discussions about a possible trade of second baseman Roberto Alomar to Cleveland for center fielder Kenny Lofton extended beyond the winter meetings a few weeks ago, but are now dead, according to a league source.

The source said the Indians made several calls to the Orioles after the meetings concluded, but nothing came of the $l discussions.

Pub Date: 12/03/96

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