Mouton back on top of world with Japan stint behind him Call-up pleased to get another chance in majors

July 25, 1998|By Joe Strauss and Chris Ewell | Joe Strauss and Chris Ewell,SUN STAFF

In one move Thursday night the Orioles not only got younger and got pitching help, they completed Lyle Mouton's rescue from oblivion.

The trade of veteran outfielder Joe Carter to the San Francisco Giants for minor-league pitcher Darin Blood did not provide an immediate return as Blood was assigned yesterday to Triple-A Rochester. However, the accompanying promotion of Mouton from Rochester provided the Orioles a fresher set of legs and the former Chicago White Sox outfielder a fresh chance at the major leagues.

Mouton, 29, impressed the Orioles while playing with Chicago last year. There he batted .269 with five home runs and 23 RBIs in 88 games. Primarily a right fielder, Mouton is a noted first-ball hitter. Should Jeffrey Hammonds keep the Orioles waiting, Mouton could enter a platoon arrangement in right field with Rich Becker.

"It's not an easy role, but it's a role I'm prepared to do," Mouton said.

Mouton, 29, might even be willing to sell concessions or take tickets at Camden Yards after this spring's frustrating experience with international baseball. The White Sox sold his contract to the Yakult Swallows of the Japanese Central League last November. His experience in Japan was not unique for an American player. He had to adjust to a different culture not only within Japanese society but also on the field, where he quickly fell into an uncomfortable platoon arrangement.

He eventually learned that his acquisition was a divisive issue within the organization. Mouton estimates he received 10 at-bats in the six weeks prior to his release.

"I opened the season 3-for-18 and they platooned me. I could have done that at home and not have put my family through that transition," recalled Mouton. "The experience gave me an appreciation for how the game is played here. [In Japan], the attitude is not one of a game but of a job. It's a privilege to play the game for a living [here], but it's still a game.

"I'm just fortunate to have an opportunity to join an organization in the big leagues. I wouldn't have orchestrated it this way but how many people have control of this anyway?"

The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Mouton played in the same backcourt at LSU with NBA standout Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, then known as Chris Jackson. Mouton's combination of size, speed and power suggest the versatility the Orioles have sought for their bench.

Carter signed a one-year, $3.3 million contract last year and envisioned himself as an everyday contributor, either as designated hitter or in left field. However, he never chipped away at B. J. Surhoff's role in left and only shared the DH role with left-handed hitter Harold Baines. As a result he never became a consistent force. Carter's 11 home runs were with the bases empty. Stationed in right field, he never became comfortable in the new position.

Carter reported to the Giants yesterday. He left Baltimore hitting .247 with 11 home runs and 34 RBIs, far below the club's projections.

Blood, who turns 24 next month, was pitching at Triple-A Fresno, where he was 4-5 with a 4.66 ERA in 19 starts. He was the 1996 Single-A California League Pitcher of the Year after going 17-6 at San Jose.

Pub Date: 7/25/98

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