Ripken optimistic deal can get done Progress seen

deadline of Opening Day stands

March 24, 1997|By Roch Eric Kubatko and Ken Rosenthal | Roch Eric Kubatko and Ken Rosenthal,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Cal Ripken repeated yesterday that he won't let negotiations on a new contract go past Opening Day, but he said he's very optimistic a deal will be struck by then.

"The people are working very hard on both sides and I think a lot of issues are being addressed that are very critical to the negotiations," he said. "Not only is it conceivable, but it's very possible and maybe even probable that things will get done before the season starts. That's a very optimistic viewpoint, but I'm hanging on to it."

The Orioles reportedly have offered Ripken a two-year extension with a team option for a third worth approximately $6.2 million a season, the same figure as his salary this season.

Kevin Malone, the Orioles' assistant general manager, said he thinks it's "just a matter of time" before an agreement is reached.

"We've proceeded in a positive manner forward," he said. "I wouldn't say we're that close, but I think there's a willing optimistic spirit on both sides. That's why I think it's going to get done."

General manager Pat Gillick said: "I'm not optimistic or pessimistic."

A league source said Ripken and Orioles owner Peter Angelos had contract discussions last week, though Ripken said: "I'm going to try not to worry about it either way. I have a big challenge over at third base and I have a lot of work to do. I've had experience before where I've gotten too close to the negotiations and I didn't like the outcome."

Ripken doubled twice and knocked in two runs yesterday in the Orioles' 9-7 victory over the Atlanta Braves. He is batting .391 with five RBIs.

Gillick also said yesterday that the Orioles spoke with Jeff Borris, the agent for center fielder Brady Anderson, who went 2-for-4 with a run scored, but apparently no offer has been made. They haven't been in recent contact with pitcher Mike Mussina's agent, Arn Tellem.

Gillick said he doesn't think the club is prepared to continue contract talks with any of the three potential free agents beyond Opening Day. "I talked to Brady. He told me he doesn't have any problems with it. [But] I don't think anything is etched in stone.

"We had a lot of time to get these things done. We had three or four months. When the bell rings, it's time to play baseball, not negotiate contracts."

Anderson, who set an Orioles record with 50 home runs last year, said he is willing to negotiate into the season. "I don't have any deadline, man. My deadline is the last possible day I can sign with them.

"If they come to me with a good deal a month into the season, I'm going to say, 'Sorry, the season started, I can't sign?' It's not like that. But it's more likely if it doesn't get done [by Opening Day], that it can get done after the season."

Pub Date: 3/24/97

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