Tarasco, Krivda eagerly await word of a spring break Two overlooked Orioles hoping for trades, new chances to prove ability

March 09, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- If you wish to test the adage that hope springs eternal, you need only to approach two lockers at opposite ends of the Orioles' clubhouse. Tony Tarasco and Rick Krivda will describe their wait as endless.

There are three parts to the clubhouse. One consists of the 25 players virtually certain of coming north. Another faction tries to make a lasting impression before the inevitable call into manager Ray Miller's office and their reassignment to minor-league camp in Sarasota. Then there are Tarasco and Krivda, party of two, hopeful for a trade.

Tarasco, 27, is on the third organization of an 11-year career, a strong-armed outfielder classified as an underachiever by the Atlanta Braves, Montreal Expos and now the Orioles. After hitting .205 with seven home runs and 26 RBIs last season, he is projected as the sixth outfielder on a club that intends to carry five.

"I know I have the ability to start for some team," he said. "I can run. I can throw. I can hit for power. It's not going to happen here, but it could happen somewhere else. That's what I'm waiting for."

Krivda, 28, is a soft-tossing left- handed pitcher for a club that invested $1.8 million last December to acquire Doug Drabek as its fifth starter. Krivda went 18-4 between Rochester and Baltimore last season, cramming 157 strikeouts into a career-high 196 innings.

Yet he sits in camp, literally out of options, waiting for his release or a trade or the chance to declare himself a free agent. An Oriole since being made a 23rd-round selection in the 1991 draft, he looks inside a locker and sees only a dead end.

"If I was 22 years old and had won those games last year, I think it would be pretty much a given I'd have a shot at being the fifth starter. Or if I threw 3 miles an hour harder. It could be a few things. I just think with all the things that happened last year I could have been given more of an opportunity," said Krivda, 4-2 with a 6.20 ERA in 10 starts for the Orioles last summer.

Krivda was the last in a series of pitchers given a chance to hold down the fifth starter's role last season. He averaged five innings per start, not enough to gain Miller's confidence.

The Orioles would like to "accommodate" both players, said assistant general manager Kevin Malone. Trade activity likely will intensify within two weeks as teams become more aware of their weaknesses and try to address injuries. Krivda is considered the more marketable and has stirred interest from the Florida Marlins, Chicago Cubs and Anaheim Angels. He also is without options, meaning that the Orioles can't reassign him to the minors.

Tarasco entered camp believing the club also had run out of options with him. He was wrong. Optioned to Rochester last April 7, he was recalled on April 25 to replace injured outfielder Jerome Walton. The club does not exhaust an option if the player returns to the major leagues within 20 days. Upon learning that the club still exercises control over his contract, Tarasco was crushed.

"The waiting kills you. I know I'm not in their plans. I just need to go somewhere where I can get on with my career," he said.

Tarasco is a career .242 hitter with a funky left-handed stroke. A serviceable reserve for the first half of last season, he managed only three hits after July 20. The club then chose to exclude him from its postseason roster.

Tarasco said last year's distraction and declining production corresponded with worries over his father's health in California. Those fears were confirmed after the season when Tarasco returned home to discover his father had lost 50 pounds from battling cancer of the lymph node. Tarasco then played briefly in the Venezuelan winter league before a torn meniscus forced his return home.

Krivda also was left off the postseason roster but believed an opportunity would await this spring. Drabek's acquisition jolted that assumption.

"I just thought we would have four solid starters again and leave it up to me, Nerio [Rodriguez] and Rocky [Coppinger] for the fifth spot. It didn't happen that way. So now it's time to shift gears," Krivda said.

So far Krivda has done little to help himself this spring with three uneven performances, including yesterday's traumatic 1 2/3 innings in which he allowed seven base runners and three runs to the Boston Red Sox.

Three weeks remain before the Orioles open their season of promise. To Tarasco and Krivda, it is an eternity to learn the inevitable.

Pub Date: 3/09/98

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