Outfielder Becker gives O's insurance With injuries abounding, ex-Met, Twin is welcomed

June 17, 1998|By Eduardo A. Encina | Eduardo A. Encina,SUN STAFF

In an effort to boost an outfield marred by injuries, the Orioles yesterday claimed former New York Mets outfielder Rich Becker off waivers and designated outfielder Jesus Tavarez for assignment.

Orioles assistant general manager Kevin Malone said the Orioles have been interested in acquiring him since 1996, when he was with the Minnesota Twins.

"We've always liked the way he plays," Malone said. "He works hard. He plays hard and we think he has the ability to make us a better ballclub. He is a good fielder, can steal a base, has some power and adds to our depth."

The Orioles' outfield has been slammed recently by injuries. With Jeffrey Hammonds already on the disabled list with recurring back spasms and Brady Anderson limited by a pulled leg muscle, Eric Davis was hit by a pitch in the back Monday night, forcing him from last night's lineup.

Becker, 26, hit .190 with three homers and 10 RBIs in 49 games with the Mets. Previously a career .267 hitter, he had trouble adapting to National League pitching after being traded from the Twins for former Orioles prospect Alex Ochoa last December.

Becker is known as a reliable outfielder who can play all three positions and has a good arm. In 1996, he ranked second in the majors in outfield assists with 18. The down side on Becker is that he is very prone to the strikeout. In each of his two full seasons in Minnesota, he struck out at least 118 times. This year he has 42 strikeouts in 100 at-bats.

Becker also represents insurance in center field if Anderson, who returned to the lineup last night, reinjures himself. He also gives the Orioles a left-handed bat and speed they would miss without Anderson.

"We've handled lefties pretty well with our left-handed lineup, but I'd like to be a little more explosive against right-handed starters," said Orioles manager Ray Miller. "He gives us another live body. Even if he doesn't steal bases, he has the ability to do it and that puts pressure on the pitcher."

Orioles infielder Jeff Reboulet played with Becker in Minnesota before last season and remembers him as a young, speedy, powerful outfielder who was quiet around the clubhouse but could play the game.

"He was very good defensively, he could run and he's a very strong guy, not just a singles guy," Reboulet said. "I remember with the Twins he wasn't as big as he is now. The last time I saw him with the Mets, I saw that he's bulked up a little."

As a result of the Becker acquisition, the Orioles have 10 days to trade or release Tavarez or seven days to reassign him to Triple-A Rochester if he accepts. Tavarez, a switch-hitter who impressed Miller in spring training with a .325 average, hit .182 with one homer and one RBI in 11 at-bats since his contract was purchased from Rochester on June 6.

Pub Date: 6/17/98

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