Myers: Commitment is key Former O's closer says he gives 100 percent, expects same from club

March 09, 1998|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Randy Myers might be baseball's ultimate soldier of fortune, changing uniforms at the drop of a decimal point during a nomadic journey through the major leagues that may eventually lead to the Hall of Fame.

The Toronto Blue Jays are his sixth major-league team, but he still wants to make it clear that he would have taken the fifth if the Orioles had been willing to give him a three-year contract.

"I look at it as, I'm a pro athlete and I'm going to give 100 percent when I go out there. I expect that from the organization. [Toronto general manager] Gord Ash called. They wanted to sign me. The deal was done very quickly. If the Orioles had considered me a priority, the deal would have gotten done."

So he moved on again. He started his career with the New York Mets, was traded to the Cincinnati Reds and then the San Diego Padres before becoming a free agent three times in the 1990s. The Orioles signed him to a two-year deal before the 1996 season, but would not commit to three more years with promising young reliever Armando Benitez apparently ready to move into a regular closer role.

"It's part of the job," Myers said. "I have no hard feelings against the Orioles, from Pat [Gillick, general manager] on down to the coaches, manager and players. I enjoyed it in Baltimore, and I'm going to miss the fans there and my teammates.

"It was just one position where they felt they could save some money."

A lot of money. The Blue Jays rewarded Myers for his major-league-leading 45-save performance with $18 million over three years. The Orioles reportedly offered two years at $10.5 million, with about half of the guarantee deferred. Benitez will earn $900,000 this year.

Myers shies away from questions about Benitez, but it is clear that he is skeptical about the young right-hander's chances of replicating the 1997 success of New York Yankees setup-man-turned-closer Mariano Rivera.

"Baltimore probably has the strongest bullpen in terms of depth and experience," Myers said. "I think they'll more than be OK. I've heard that they're going with more of a bullpen by committee."

That bullpen includes friend and former fellow "Nasty Boy" Norm Charlton, who is coming off a difficult season, but may join Benitez in a closer platoon if he pitches well this spring. Despite Charlton's 7.27 ERA in 1997, Myers said he expects him to pitch well this season.

"I think Norm actually had a good year last year," Myers said. "He pitched too much in April and May, because he was the only guy they could give the ball to. He came on strong in September. I think a lot of the bad numbers came in the seventh and eighth inning.

"I think pitching one inning will bring out the Norm Charlton who knows how to pitch. If you're just pitching one inning, it's a whole different ballgame."

It is not inconceivable that the two of them could be matched up in the ninth inning at Camden Yards a couple of times this year, but Myers -- for all of the nice things he had to say about Baltimore -- doesn't relish the prospect of returning to Oriole Park as an opponent.

"It's a small ballpark," he said. "Hopefully, we'll have a four-run lead every time we play there and I won't have to pitch."

Pub Date: 3/09/98

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