O's have no option, send down Tarasco Johnson tells outfielder he'll be 'yo-yo' this year

April 08, 1997|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The move was predictable, but that didn't make it any less painful for Orioles outfielder Tony Tarasco, who arrived at Kauffman Stadium yesterday to find out that he had been optioned to the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings.

The Orioles needed room on the roster for veteran outfielder Pete Incaviglia. The choices were limited -- Tarasco, Jeffrey Hammonds or Jerome Walton -- but Hammonds is playing in center field until Brady Anderson is ready to return full-time and Walton could not be sent down without his permission. So it really just came down to Tarasco.

"I'm trying to figure out how I went from playing every day in Montreal [in 1995], trying to bloom, to being a bench player they are keeping around for a safety," Tarasco said. "I'm not 30 years old. I'm not a safety. They say they still feel I have an opportunity to help them this year. To me, it doesn't seem that way."

Manager Davey Johnson tried to explain to the 26-year-old outfielder that it was just numbers. The Orioles needed a roster spot and there was no other reasonable alternative.

"There's really not a whole lot to it," Johnson said. "He's got an option. He's still a young player and we can keep him. We don't have a whole lot of depth in this organization. We've got 28 guys we're going to hold onto and he's one of them. I told him, 'You're probably going to be a yo-yo this year.' "

That was small consolation to Tarasco, who doesn't relish the thought of shuttling back and forth between the major leagues and Triple-A. He looked like an emerging star when he broke into the majors with the Atlanta Braves and was the most prominent prospect to go to Montreal in the deal for premier center fielder Marquis Grissom.

"What I hate about this game is that they never give you fair warning," Tarasco said. "It's usually heard through [the media]. A kid busts his butt after surgery to help them in the playoffs, busts his butt in spring training, playing with a fever and the flu. The least they could do is pull somebody aside and let him know there's a chance that you might be sending him out. [But] I knew what was going on. I've got eyes. My biggest thing is trying to figure out how I went from playing every day to Rochester."

If he had his choice, Tarasco would rather play every day in the majors, even if it meant going to a lesser team. He said he may ask to be traded, but club officials have indicated that they are not interested in moving him.

"Maybe on some other clubs he might be getting more playing time," Johnson said, "but we're not another club and we can't afford to lose him."

Tarasco came into spring training with a chance to win a place in the everyday lineup. He got off to a good start at the plate during the exhibition season, but was slowed during the final two weeks by a quadriceps injury. He had appeared in two of the club's first five regular-season games and was hitless in three at-bats.

Johnson maintains that this might be the best thing for him. The alternative was a part-time role that might leave him sitting on the bench for extended periods and make it difficult for him to establish anything at the plate.

"First of all, if there is a problem, he's only 24 hours away," Johnson said. "I'd rather have a guy playing who can come up and help us than sitting around here at 26 years old."

Pub Date: 4/08/97

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