The Orioles purchased the contract of infielder Aaron Ledesma from Triple-A Rochester yesterday to take the place of outfielder Pete Incaviglia, who was designated for assignment after Monday night's game.
Ledesma, 26, was batting .325 (106-for-326) in 85 games, with 26 doubles, three homers and 43 RBIs. He also stole 12 bases in 14 attempts.
He was told of his impending trip to Baltimore by Rochester manager Marv Foley after Monday night's game in Richmond, and took a flight yesterday afternoon.
"I was surprised. I didn't see it coming at all," said Ledesma, who was invited to spring training this year after spending the 1996 season with Vancouver, Anaheim's Triple-A affiliate. He was signed in January as a free agent.
Ledesma's previous major-league exposure consisted of 21 games with the New York Mets in 1995. He went 8-for-33 (.242) with three RBIs. He collected a pinch-hit single off Cincinnati's John Smiley in his first at-bat, and went 3-for-5 the next day in his first start.
Manager Davey Johnson said Ledesma, a native of Union City, Calif., can play every infield position. He presents another option besides just having Jeff Reboulet on the bench, and allows Johnson to better protect Roberto Alomar against tougher left-handed pitchers. Alomar still isn't batting right-handed because of a sore shoulder.
"He gives us a more flexible infield," Johnson said. "He probably was our best hitter at Triple-A. He's not going to get a lot of playing time, but he gives us better balance. Reboulet's done a great job. This just lets us do a little bit more."
Asked if he had been following the Orioles closely this season, Ledesma said, "The only thing I knew is the infielders here seem to play a lot. It was going to be a tough roster to crack. This year was just worrying about playing at Triple-A and performing well. I wasn't even thinking about the big leagues, to tell you the truth.
"I'm just basically going to go out and do what I've been doing and see what happens. I'm not in total awe. I was with my first experience. I'm going to be all right.
"I know these pitchers have all pitched at Triple-A at one time in their careers. I'm thinking it's not much of a difference."
Ledesma, 6 feet 2, 200 pounds, got three hits off Hideki Irabu in the final stages of the Japanese pitcher's minor-league stay.
Johnson defends Inky exit ...
Incaviglia's locker was cleaned out and his nameplate was removed. All that remained were a couple of hangers.
Johnson said consideration was given to clubhouse chemistry when Incaviglia was cut. The outfielder had a lot of friends on the team, some who questioned his limited playing time. He was 4-for-33 in June and 3-for-9 this month.
"Everybody liked Inky, but he wasn't real happy in his role. And we couldn't see that role expanding," Johnson said. "Once we acquired [Geronimo] Berroa, how were we going to get him at-bats?
"Berroa will basically DH and play right when somebody isn't 100 percent. What was I going to do with Inky? It's one of the things we could do, and we did it. This gives Inky a chance to go somewhere and expand his role."
... but Hoiles 'upset with it'
Catcher Chris Hoiles, who began a rehabilitation assignment last night at Double-A Bowie, was critical of the Incaviglia decision.
Hoiles, who called the outfielder/designated hitter "a very good friend," had been curious of the Orioles' pursuit of a power hitter, which culminated in the acquisition of Berroa on June 27.
"It's a move I really don't understand. I'm upset with it," Hoiles said. "Maybe if they go out and get a left-handed power guy, that's something we were lacking. But just to go out and get somebody just for the heck of it, especially with the year we're having, I don't see how that's sufficient. He was never a detriment to this team."
Hoiles said Incaviglia's situation was made extra difficult when his role was reduced from duty in left field, to designated hitting, to pinch hitting.
"It got to the point where his playing time got to be nothing at all," Hoiles said. "And then he wasn't really getting it done when he got called upon and that led to the move [to release him]. It takes a very special person to be able to do that, and he's a guy who needs to get his swings."
Hoiles said Incaviglia's clubhouse impact will be missed. "Inky was a guy you loved to have around," he said. "He kept it loose, he was positive. And you knew it had to be eating at him a little bit, but he never let his emotions take over and say things that didn't need to be said."
Johnson backs Johnson
Johnson became annoyed with questions concerning the status of Rule 5 draftee Mike Johnson, who was discussed during Monday's organizational meeting.
Johnson, 21, hasn't pitched for the Orioles since starting the second game of a July 4 doubleheader in Detroit, after making only three appearances last month. He threw two innings in Thursday's exhibition game at Rochester.