O's hold line on pay for younger players, too Alexander, 4 others see pacts unilaterally renewed

Orioles notebook

March 03, 1997|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Roch Eric Kubatko contributed to this article.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The Orioles have taken strong stances in contract negotiations with their highest-paid players, Mike Mussina and Cal Ripken. But a handful of young players found out the club is serious about holding costs on all contracts.

Unable to reach agreements with infielders Manny Alexander, Willis Otanez and Danny Magee, pitcher Esteban Yan and catcher Cesar Devarez, the Orioles yesterday unilaterally renewed the contracts of those players, as teams are permitted to do.

The Orioles used to generously pay players with less than three years' experience. Now they are using a strict scale, based on service time in the majors, and adding some money for those players who enjoy major-league success.

Their offer of $225,000 (plus possible incentives of $35,000) wasn't acceptable to Alexander, who declined to sign his contract. The Orioles, then, renewed Alexander's deal at $205,000, with incentives of $30,000.

Alexander, Otanez, Devarez and Yan are represented by Mike Powers, who said: "I'm disappointed. We have a philosophical difference. They're trying to impose a system of paying players and the young players don't understand."

Kevin Malone, the Orioles assistant general manager, acknowledged that this front office has adopted an approach different from that used by former GM Roland Hemond. "I would say that's true," said Malone. "We're cost-conscious, and we're fair. We pay guys for performance and achievements. If you performed well, you were on the high end of the scale for your service time.

" Cost effectiveness doesn't seem to be in everybody's vocabulary."

Malone noted that all five players received raises over 1996. Alexander earned $190,000 last year, when he was a seldom-used utility man for the Orioles. He made $81,000 over the minimum salary in 1996, and this year, with the minimum wage raised to $150,000, he'll earn $55,000 over the minimum.

Devarez will get $155,000 for playing in the majors and $54,000 in the minors; Powers attempted to get more minor-league pay for Devarez, Yan and Otanez.

The Orioles did reach an agreement with pitcher Armando Benitez, who will get a $240,000 base salary and could earn $35,000 in incentives.

B. J., meet DH

Picking a designated hitter created a lot of headaches last year for Davey Johnson, at least until Eddie Murray was acquired and Bobby Bonilla happily moved to right field. But with Murray gone, Johnson again intends to rotate several players into the DH role, and B. J. Surhoff figures to get a fair share of the at-bats.

Johnson recently told Surhoff he would be used as a designated hitter sometimes. Johnson said: "I told him, 'I used you so much [in the field] last year that you broke down. You had to have knee surgery.'

"He doesn't want to DH, but he will. He wants to play in the field, but he won't use [the DH] as a diversion and mentally handicap himself."

Which is exactly what Johnson thought Bonilla did.

Surhoff said: "I DH-ed some last year, and I don't expect it to be any different. I don't expect it to be an extraordinary amount [of games at DH]."

Johnson likely will finish games with his best possible defensive outfield -- Jerome Walton in left, Brady Anderson in center and Eric Davis in right -- and it could be that when Walton starts, Surhoff will DH.

Johnson also asked Davis about being a DH, and Davis said it would be no problem.

Davis runs it up

Davis hit a long home run yesterday in the Orioles' 10-2 exhibition mashing of Montreal, a blast that traveled 410 feet or so to left-center. Davis also stole a base easily, and tried to score from second on an infield grounder. He was thrown out, but Johnson greatly appreciated the sort of aggressiveness that wasn't always evident in the Orioles last year.

"We've got just a little different look with him in there," said Johnson. "He stole a base and hit one about 900 miles."

Davis said: "I've always tried to run the bases like that. It puts more pressure on the defense."

Hopes for Haynes

There is little doubt Jimmy Haynes is going back to Triple-A. But before he goes, pitching coach Ray Miller hopes the right-hander does something he can build on.

Haynes, who had a frustrating 1996 season, gave up five hits and three runs in two innings in a "B" game with the Expos yesterday. He wasn't as bad as that sounds: Several times Haynes threw the sharp, nasty curveball that made him so good in 1995, and his fastball averaged about 90 mph.

Haynes, however, rarely mixed in the changeup that he needs to be successful, and he occasionally fell toward the first base line.

"It's going to take awhile," Miller said, "but I think he'll come around. This is going to be a critical year for him to have some success."

Around the horn

Kelly Gruber, attempting a comeback, is running well. But playing second base yesterday, he went hitless and botched a )) double play. Catcher Lenny Webster singled and drove in two runs with a double against his former team. Pete Incaviglia's spring debut was delayed by a strained rib cage muscle. Back in action yesterday, he had two hits in five at-bats, and a monstrous foul ball.

The Orioles' front office and coaching staff met last night to determine the first round of cuts, which probably will be announced today. Surhoff, Cal Ripken and Brady Anderson also had two hits apiece. Mussina pitched two scoreless innings, allowing a hit and a walk. Marlins outfielder John Cangelosi's homer off the Orioles' Chris Fussell on Saturday was his first batting left-handed since 1985. Pitchers Rocky Coppinger (strained arch) and Jimmy Key (strained calf) are nursing aches.

Pub Date: 3/03/97

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