Kamieniecki puts return to Orioles at '50-50' Pursued by others, pitcher wants 3 years

Molitor decision due

December 03, 1997|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

Seriously pursued by a fistful of teams less than a year after signing a minor-league contract with the Orioles, free-agent right-hander Scott Kamieniecki says there is a "50-50" chance he will return to the club that provided him the opportunity to resuscitate his injury-marred career.

Kamieniecki, 33, is seeking a three-year contract. Concerned over his health history, the Orioles have offered a two-year package. Meanwhile, the Arizona Diamondbacks, Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Cleveland Indians have emerged as the Orioles' stiffest competition while the Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees also are believed to have interest.

The Orioles are likely to learn within the next 24 hours if they will sign free-agent designated hitter Paul Molitor. Orioles general manager Pat Gillick met Monday in Minneapolis with Molitor's agent, Ron Simon, and is believed to have offered a one-year contract plus an option for 1999. Gillick met with Molitor the week before in Atlantic City, N.J.

The Toronto Blue Jays, who offered Molitor their managerial opening last month, are considered the main competition. Molitor, who played for Minnesota the past two seasons, is attending a celebrity golf event in California, but his wife, Linda, said yesterday that a decision should be reached tonight.

Molitor, 41, played for the Blue Jays from 1993 to 1995 and became one of the few players to maintain his off-season home in Canada. "In a lot of ways, it would be easier to go back to Toronto," Linda Molitor said yesterday.

Likewise, Kamieniecki maintained it would be easier for him to return to Baltimore. However, that was before 16 teams showed early interest in him. Kamieniecki represents a commodity within a thin pitching market. Two years after undergoing elbow surgery, Kamieniecki pitched 179 1/3 innings and was 10-6. In 13 of 30 starts he received three runs or fewer of support.

The Orioles made re-signing Kamieniecki one of their off-season priorities but envision him in a less visible role than either expansion club. The Diamondbacks and Devil Rays project him as a No. 3 starter, while the Orioles see him dropping from their fourth starter to No. 5 next season. Kamieniecki also enjoys a relationship with Diamondbacks manager Buck Showalter, one of his managers while in the Yankees' organization.

"I talked to them right after the season. They told me that they wanted me back and I told them I wanted to be back," Kamieniecki said of the Orioles. "If all things are close to being equal, I'll be back. But right now, they're not that close."

While the market appears to be waiting for Sunday's deadline for clubs to offer salary arbitration to their own free agents, the Diamondbacks have shown a willingness to drive salaries. Their signing of shortstop Jay Bell to a five-year, $34 million deal remains a source of frustration within the industry. On Monday, they traded for Indians third baseman Matt Williams and signed him to a five-year, $45 million extension.

The Diamondbacks also are pursuing free-agent pitchers Darryl Kile, Andy Benes and Willie Blair. The Orioles have shown strong interest in Blair.

Despite the abrupt loss of closer Randy Myers to the Blue Jays last Wednesday, Gillick remains optimistic about where the Orioles stand. He said last night that he does not anticipate a rush of signings until after this weekend. "Things are going pretty much the way I thought they would. The one exception is I really felt Randy would be back," Gillick said.

Free-agent center fielder Brady Anderson and Orioles majority owner Peter Angelos are expected to resume negotiations today after a week's hiatus. Anderson is still in California, and his plans for returning to Baltimore remain unsettled. Among his options: Tennis star Monica Seles has invited Anderson to Florida to help her construct a conditioning plan.

The Orioles have until Sunday to decide whether to offer arbitration to their four remaining free agents: Kamieniecki, Anderson, Harold Baines and Jerome Walton. By offering arbitration, they guarantee themselves compensation should a free agent go elsewhere along with retaining negotiating rights until Jan. 8.

Pub Date: 12/03/97

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