Palmeiro nearly left off O's list Angelos overrules plan to expose him in draft

Hoiles, Davis available

November 14, 1997|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

The protected list forwarded by the Orioles to the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil Rays for Tuesday's expansion draft was relatively free of surprises but hardly without heated debate, club sources maintain.

The Sun has learned that the Orioles' 15-man protected list is composed of 11 veterans and four others with little or no major-league experience. Among those exposed are catcher Chris Hoiles, outfielders Eric Davis and Geronimo Berroa and relievers Alan Mills, Jesse Orosco and Terry Mathews.

However, club sources indicate that Davis was exposed after much internal discussion and that first baseman Rafael Palmeiro was left off a first draft crafted by general manager Pat Gillick and assistant GM Kevin Malone.

Coming off an uneven season in which batted .254 but hit 38 home runs with 110 RBIs, Palmeiro has been the subject of internal scrutiny since a difficult postseason. He will enter the final year of a four-year, $24 million contract next season.

The front office apparently believed that neither expansion team would risk a first-round pick on a high-priced player whose availability was uncertain beyond its inaugural season. The original list was modified after a Nov. 4 meeting with majority owner Peter Angelos.

"The first 10 [protected] were pretty easy to bring together, but the next five were very difficult," said Malone. "We have a championship team here. We also have some outstanding players who represent the future of the organization. That makes it a challenge."

Major League Baseball has stipulated that teams not address specifics regarding the expansion list. But The Sun has learned that the Orioles chose to protect pitchers Mike Mussina, Scott Erickson, Jimmy Key, Arthur Rhodes and Armando Benitez; infielders Cal Ripken, Mike Bordick, Roberto Alomar and Palmeiro along with outfielders B. J. Surhoff and Jeffrey Hammonds. The club also protected part of its future by listing pitchers Nerio Rodriguez and Sidney Ponson along with outfielders Danny Clyburn and Eugene Kingsale.

Notably missing is pitcher Julio Moreno, who posted superior numbers to Ponson at Double-A Bowie. Ponson labored through injuries to finish 2-7 with a 5.42 ERA while Moreno was 9-6, 3.83.

Esteban Yan, 23, finished 11-5 with a 3.10 ERA at Triple-A Rochester, including an 8-2 record as a starter, but will be available on Tuesday for at least one round.

Left-hander Rick Krivda also is available after 18 wins between Rochester and Baltimore. His age (28 in January) and the Orioles' lack of maneuverability -- he has no minor-league options left -- leaves his career here in doubt.

Rocky Coppinger is available after being projected as the Orioles' No. 4 starter last April. Coppinger, 23, underwent shoulder and elbow surgery in August and is still considered a significant health risk. Infielder Aaron Ledesma, 26, may also represent a late-round target for either expansion club after showing defensive versatility while batting .352 in 88 at-bats last season.

The club was contractually bound to protect Mussina and Ripken. Though Palmeiro has a limited no-trade clause in his contract, he was eligible to be exposed.

Davis temporarily represented an issue, say sources, after Angelos unilaterally chose to pick up the right fielder's $2.5 million option for next season. But given his age (35), his contract and his return from June colon cancer surgery, Davis was deemed unlikely to be lost.

Hoiles, 33 in March, carries a hefty salary ($3.6 million) and the tag of a poor-throwing catcher. He also is coming off an injury-marred season that had him hit fewer than 19 home runs for the first time since 1991. The Orioles have pledged to upgrade the position before next spring, likely through a trade. Berroa also was exposed. Berroa, acquired from Oakland last June 27, is arbitration eligible but represents a salary drag given last year's $3.3 million take.

Every team will sacrifice at least two players from its 40-man roster. Fourteen teams will lose three. After Tuesday's first round, each club will pull back three additional players. The process repeats after the second round.

Though the Orioles' rebuilding minor-league system enjoyed competitive success last summer, it did so with a large number of older players. Many within the industry believe they will touched for only two players.

O's protected list

The 15 players the Orioles have chosen to protect for Tuesday's expansion draft:

Major-leaguers (11)

P Armando Benitez

P Scott Erickson

P Jimmy Key

P Mike Mussina

P Arthur Rhodes

1B Rafael Palmeiro

2B Roberto Alomar

SS Mike Bordick

3B Cal Ripken

OF Jeffrey Hammonds

OF B. J. Surhoff

Minor-leaguers (4)

P Sidney Ponson

P Nerio Rodriguez

OF Danny Clyburn

OF Eugene Kingsale

Pub Date: 11/14/97

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