O's take roster risk Dodgers get reward

Orioles notebook

Top minor-league pitcher, out after shoulder surgery, goes to L.A. on waivers

March 13, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

JUPITER, Fla. -- Attempting to make space on their major-league roster, the Orioles suffered a painful and somewhat embarrassing loss yesterday when the Los Angeles Dodgers claimed Steve Montgomery, the club's injured minor-league Pitcher of the Year, off waivers.

The Orioles had thought the maneuver a low-risk move. Montgomery, 24, underwent season-ending surgery earlier this month to repair a frayed rotator cuff and partially torn labrum. In attendance for the Orioles' exhibition against the St. Louis Cardinals, general manager Pat Gillick and assistant general manager Kevin Malone were stunned when notified of the

Dodgers' claim around 2 p.m.

"When a guy's injured with the kind of surgery he had, it's surprising," Malone said.

Montgomery received the Jim Palmer Award as the organization's top minor-league pitcher for compiling a 10-5 record and 3.10 ERA at Double-A Bowie. In 24 appearances, including 23 starts, Montgomery struck out 127 in 136 1/3 innings. He made two less successful outings with Rochester, going 0-1 with a 12.15 ERA. Still, his performance was impressive enough to overshadow those of Rick Krivda, Nerio Rodriguez and Julio Moreno.

Before complaining of shoulder soreness in January, Montgomery had been projected for Rochester's starting rotation. Shut down during the Orioles' pre-camp throwing program at Camden Yards, he arrived in Fort Lauderdale complaining of weakness in the area.

An MRI revealed the damage and surgery was performed by Dr. James Andrews.

The Orioles could have taken less risky avenues to remove Montgomery from the roster but apparently believed his status enough of a mitigating factor. With their roster at 38, the Orioles have room to elevate infielder Ozzie Guillen and possibly finalize a trade.

Had they put Montgomery on the 60-day disabled list, the Orioles could have reassigned his spot on the major-league roster to Guillen but in return would have had to pay Montgomery a major-league salary while he also accrued service time. Hence, the club would have sacrificed a year of control. Montgomery also could have been optioned, enabling the team to avoid paying him a major-league salary. Such a move would not have provided the roster spot. The Dodgers had seen much of Montgomery during his performance in the Arizona Fall League as the two teams helped stock the championship Peoria entry.

While overtly embarrassing, Montgomery's loss was more the product of a "misunderstanding" between the Orioles' front office and the league office, according to a source familiar with the case. Gillick apparently was led to believe the club could not lose Montgomery by passing him through waivers. "Why else would you not ask options on the guy?" said the source.

Gillick refused to confirm or deny the misunderstanding, saying only, "We did what we wanted to do."

Surhoff ready to return

Reporting no problems yesterday after taking batting practice for the first time Wednesday, outfielder B.J. Surhoff is expected to play tomorrow against Montreal in Fort Lauderdale.

Surhoff hasn't appeared in a game since the exhibition opener Feb. 28, when he injured a ligament in the ring finger of his right hand diving back into first base.

Carter in prime shape

If there has been any regression in Joe Carter's game as the veteran prepares for his 16th season in the majors, manager Ray Miller hasn't noticed it.

"It doesn't look like he's lost anything to me," Miller said.

Carter appears to have lost his way to the trainer's room.

"Every time I go in there and ask Richie [Bancells] how Joe Carter's holding up, he says, 'I haven't seen him yet.' I like that," Miller said. "And he gets on anybody who does go in there, so I like that, too."

Carter drove in his fifth run of the spring with a two-out double in the first inning.

O's Hall to get inductees

Lee MacPhail, who laid the groundwork for the Orioles' first four pennant-winning teams, and former infielders Lee May and Bobby Grich were named yesterday as the newest inductees to the club's Hall of Fame. Ceremonies will take place prior to the Orioles' Aug. 30 game against Kansas City.

MacPhail, who last week was elected to baseball's Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., was named general manager in November 1958. Before leaving the organization in 1965, he set up the trade that brought Frank Robinson from Cincinnati and began a stretch of four American League pennants and two world championships over the next six seasons.

May was a first baseman-designated hitter with the Orioles from 1975 to 1980, batting .254 with 123 homers and 487 RBIs. He led the American League with 109 RBIs in 1976.

Grich played the first seven of his 17 major-league seasons in Baltimore (1970-76), winning four consecutive Gold Gloves at second base. He batted .262 with 250 RBIs before signing with California as a free agent. Grich was the first player inducted into the Angels' Hall of Fame, in 1988.

Around the horn

Batting right-handed against former Orioles left-hander Kent Mercker, Roberto Alomar singled in his first at-bat and took second when the ball was bobbled by right fielder Brian Jordan (Milford Mill). He scored on Carter's double, as the Orioles jumped on Mercker for the second time this spring. Miller said that Brady Anderson and Cal Ripken will go to Vero Beach today, but there won't be much of a veteran presence on this trip. Scott Kamieniecki will start, opposing Dodgers right-hander Hideo Nomo.

Pub Date: 3/13/98

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