FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The Orioles have all but assured themselves of carrying 14 position players and 11 pitchers to open the season. But yesterday's swirl of activity raised questions while answering others.
No longer are left-handed pitcher Rick Krivda and sixth outfielder Tony Tarasco part of the team's future. The Cleveland Indians claimed Krivda off waivers while the Cincinnati Reds did the same with Tarasco.
Meanwhile, injuries to pitcher Scott Kamieniecki and catcher Lenny Webster have raised doubts whether they will be ready for Tuesday's opener against the Kansas City Royals.
"The people that are going to be there know it. We just want to make sure everybody is healthy before making an announcement," said manager Ray Miller.
After first indicating they would reveal their Opening Day roster after yesterday's exhibition game against the New York Mets, the Orioles withheld an official announcement until Saturday when they leave Florida for Sunday's exhibition at Camden Yards.
Miller appears set on carrying 14 position players, which is good news for backup infielder Ozzie Guillen and bad news for pitchers Doug Johns and Nerio Rodriguez, who would have vied for the 12th slot. Rodriguez still could open the season in Baltimore should Kamieniecki's condition not improve.
The only lingering question surrounds reliever Terry Mathews, who was bruised again before a television audience still mindful of last October's postseason meltdown.
During the turbulent sixth inning of an ugly 5-1 loss to the Mets, Mathews allowed three runs, two earned. Cal Ripken made an error behind Mathews and center fielder Brady Anderson played a fly ball into a double, but Mathews was charged with his third loss among the Orioles' seven defeats. Miller met briefly with Mathews afterward to assure him of his place on the team.
"By no means am I going to let what happens in spring training diminish what I know a guy can do under fire," Miller said. "I know there are questions about what happened to Terry last fall. But I'm hoping and really believing he is just getting that out of the way before that starts."
Asked whether Rodriguez, 25, is better served starting at Rochester than working in long relief with the Orioles, Miller said haltingly, "If we were winning games and playing well, yes."
The implication is clear: The club can wait on Mathews as long as it avoids a bumpy start. The bullpen's current makeup will call for Mathews to take on innings should a starter falter early. If he cannot handle that role, another arm will have to located quickly.
Perhaps most telling, Rodriguez has remaining options while Mathews has a guaranteed contract for this season.
Miller admitted pondering the idea of carrying 12 pitchers.
"We're going to be opening the season in March," he said of an early schedule in Baltimore, Kansas City and Detroit. "If it was mid-April you could say you're not worried about it. We could throw some reliever three days in a row. But if you're sitting out in center field and it's 12 degrees below zero ."
Mathews describes his situation as being "in a hole just trying to peek over the top and see daylight. I'm going to get out of that hole one day."
For his part, Mathews has grown tired of the hostile reaction from Baltimore snowbirds who greet his every appearance with derision.
"If two bad outings in spring training gets rid of people, then half the people on half the teams aren't going north," Mathews said.
The loss of Tarasco and Krivda had been expected since the opening of camp. Tarasco had become resigned to his situation on a club dominated by veterans and, in the opinion of many within the organization, had allowed his frustration to erode his skills.
The Orioles retained an option on Tarasco and could have sent him to Triple-A Rochester. However, Tarasco, 27, last week requested that Miller and general manager Pat Gillick allow him a chance to go elsewhere rather than serve as "insurance." Given the off-season signing of minor-league free agent Jesus Tavarez, Gillick honored Tarasco's request.
"He just wanted the opportunity to go somewhere else and start over," Gillick said. "Hopefully, he'll get the chance with Cincinnati."
Said Tarasco, a hostage to his own expectations: "It's like being uncuffed. I'm on parole now."
The Reds made clear they expect Tarasco to start the season at Triple-A Indianapolis, but anticipate he will be promoted quickly.
"I'm happy and sad," Tarasco said. "I've made a lot of friends the last couple of years. But I'm going somewhere where I'll at least have a chance. You've got to get reacquainted with yourself. I think that's the thing that's going to be the most fun, getting to know yourself again, being out there every day, reminding yourself what you can do."
Tarasco did little in 1997, batting .205 with seven home runs and 26 RBIs in 166 at-bats. His role evaporated after mid-July and he was excluded from the Orioles' postseason roster.