Angelos keeps Palmeiro waiting Seeking new contract, player says, 'I thought I'd know something by now'

Orioles Notebook

March 30, 1998|By Joe Strauss and Roch Kubatko | Joe Strauss and Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Rafael Palmeiro will enter the regular season just as he began spring training, unsigned and uncertain whether he fits into the Orioles' future.

Palmeiro said he and his agent, Jim Bronner, still are waiting for majority owner Peter Angelos to forward a promised proposal for a contract extension. Angelos and Bronner spoke about three weeks ago, but there has since been no activity, said Palmeiro.

"Six weeks ago, I thought I would know something by now and at least have a sense of direction where things were headed. That's not the way things have happened up to this moment," the Orioles first baseman said.

Palmeiro is one of 14 Orioles eligible for free agency after this season and has consistently maintained he would like to remain in Baltimore. He said in January he would demand market value -- believed to be $9 million to $10 million per season -- if forced to play this season without an extension. At the time Palmeiro doubted that he would be re-signed if the issue dragged through spring training, but yesterday insisted he remains open to talks with Angelos.

"My goal is to stay here and finish my career as an Oriole. This is where I want to be. Why would I not leave the door open to talking?" he said.

General manager Pat Gillick and assistant GM Kevin Malone recommended earlier this month that Angelos make Palmeiro nothing more than a three-year offer. Palmeiro, 33, has indicated he will seek a five-year deal.

It appears likely that Palmeiro, pitcher Scott Erickson, left fielder B. J. Surhoff and second baseman Roberto Alomar -- the club's priorities -- will begin the season without assurances beyond 1998. A source familiar with Erickson's talks said yesterday that negotiations have "regressed," apparently over deferred money.

"I'm trying not to think about it because it's two days before the season and I don't want it to become a distraction," Palmeiro said. "I'm ready to listen until it becomes apparent that staying here is not going to be a reality."

Orioles make paper cuts

The Orioles confirmed camp's worst-kept secret after yesterday's exhibition loss to the New York Mets when they assigned seven players to their minor-league camp and officially elevated infielder Ozzie Guillen to the major-league roster.

The Orioles dispatched infielder P. J. Forbes, catchers Charlie Greene and Melvin Rosario, pitchers Nerio Rodriguez and Doug Johns, third baseman Ryan Minor and outfielder Jesus Tavarez. Of those reassigned, Greene had the only chance of making the club, but was sent out when Lenny Webster convinced club officials that he did not need to go on the disabled list with a sore right elbow.

Guillen, signed to a minor-league contract Jan. 29, had his $450,000 contract purchased. He can make up to an additional $250,000 if he receives as many as 550 plate appearances.

Palmeiro tossed

Infuriated by a too-generous strike zone, Palmeiro was ejected after striking out in the fourth inning. Not only was it a career first, Palmeiro said, it was a lifetime first.

"I got thrown out for no reason," said Palmeiro, who spun his helmet toward umpire Jim Reynolds after his ejection. "I didn't say anything bad. I think it was a result of guys before me also complaining about his strike zone. This is the first time it's ever happened to me ever going all the way back to Little League."

Finding down time for Davis

Manager Ray Miller scrambled yesterday to prevent sore-backed right fielder Eric Davis from playing nine innings against the Mets. Tavarez was slowed with a sore right ankle and did not play. When Palmeiro was ejected in the fourth inning, Miller used Guillen to replace him. Joe Carter already was in the game as designated hitter. Finally, Miller put Harold Baines in the field after a seventh-inning pinch-hit appearance.

Davis, responsible for one of the Orioles' two RBIs, has been hampered for the past week by a stiff back but is believed to be tomorrow's starting right fielder.

"Those 3 1/2 -hour bus rides caught up to me," Davis said. "At least we don't have to worry about any more of those now."

Miller produced the most numbing stat of spring as his rental car odometer showed he drove 2,938 miles this spring. Except for a trip to a Fort Lauderdale steakhouse and chauffeuring his wife to and from the airport, the miles were accumulated solely on road trips.

Man behind the mike

Dave McGowan made his debut as the Orioles' public address announcer yesterday, in a game he had replayed in his mind many times during the night.

"It's hard to put this into words," said McGowan, 49, a self-employed owner of an aircraft brokerage firm who was chosen from more than 320 candidates to replace the late Rex Barney. "The feeling is that I'm part of the team. A very small part, but I'm part of the world's greatest organization. The Orioles' management and support staff has been nothing but top-notch, grade-A plus. They can't do enough for you."

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