Charlton era closes, to open O's roster spot Released reliever sees move setting up another


July 29, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

DETROIT -- Out of patience and more importantly out of spots on the 40-man roster, the Orioles yesterday released left-handed reliever Norm Charlton.

The decision was ostensibly made to create room for Jimmy Key, who came off the disabled list and is scheduled to start tomorrow. However, releasing Charlton also creates a vacancy on the Orioles' 40-man roster, significant given the approach of Friday night's waiver deadline and an anticipated rush of trades.

The Orioles remain interested in obtaining a starting pitcher to help their push for the wild card. By releasing Charlton, their major-league roster stands at 39.

Charlton compiled a 2-1 record and 6.94 ERA in 36 appearances. He had permitted 71 base runners in 35 innings and been ineffective against left-handed hitters. Even though the move left manager Ray Miller with only two healthy left-handed relievers, Jesse Orosco and Doug Johns, Miller had seen enough.

"I argued over that with myself. But I've had three and I've only used two," Miller admitted. "It's like [Earl] Weaver said, 'Don't give me somebody I don't want to use, because I'll use them.' When you start not using somebody you put a toll on somebody else."

Charlton had pitched sparingly in recent weeks but lasted long enough to augment his $650,000 base salary with $175,000 in appearance incentives.

"The trade deadline's coming up. Who knows what they're doing? They may need to make room for somebody. It's just a suspicion. I've been in the game long enough I'm not surprised by anything," said Charlton, a major-leaguer since breaking in with Cincinnati in 1988. "It's a business. I was a little surprised because I'd been throwing the ball a lot better lately. If anything, I was a little surprised it didn't happen earlier."

Charlton, who never gained Miller's trust after a disappointing spring training, expressed appreciation for the Orioles staying with him as long as they did. He believed himself in danger of being released last month when the club released reliever Terry Mathews instead.

Asked if his floating role within a battered bullpen affected his performance, Charlton said, "It doesn't matter much. My job is to pitch and get people out. If I had done a much better job of that we wouldn't be looking at this situation right now. I'm not going to make excuses."

The Orioles had hoped Miller and pitching coach Mike Flanagan could restore a well-worn arm rocked for a 7.27 ERA in 71 appearances last season with the Seattle Mariners.

Charlton, 35, never gained his footing, however. Left-handed hitters pounded him for a .340 average. Charlton also walked 25 against 41 strikeouts. Minus strikeouts, the American League reached him for a .418 average.

"I think the numbers speak for themselves. About once out of every four appearances he did a decent job," Miller said.

Charlton pitched only three times this month; however, he allowed only one earned run in 6 2/3 innings covering his past nine appearances. Conversely, first batters faced were hammering him for a .472 average.

Charlton has been here before. The Philadelphia Phillies released him in July 1995. The Mariners then signed him as a free agent and received 14 saves and a 1.51 ERA the rest of the season.

"I'm not particularly unhappy about it. The first time I was shocked and upset. Now I'm not that upset about it," Charlton said. "I still think I can pitch."

Bird busts

A look at how the four free agents signed by the Orioles before the start of the season -- outfielder Joe Carter, utility infielder Ozzie Guillen, left-handed reliever Norm Charlton and starting pitcher Doug Drabek -- have fared with the club:

Player .. Sal. .. Avg ... AB ... R ... H .. HR .. RBI .. Status

Carter..$3.3M .. .247 .. 283 .. 36 .. 70 .. 11 .. 34 Traded to S.F. on 7/23

Guillen $.45M .. .063 ... 16 ... 2 ... 1 ... 0 ... 0 Released on 5/1; signed with Atl. on 5/6

Pitcher ..... Sal. .. W-L .. ERA ... IP .... H .. BB .. SO Status

Charlton .. $.65M ... 2-1 .. 6.94 .. 35 ... 46 .. 25 .. 41 Released yesterday

Drabek .... $1.8M ... 6-9 .. 7.06 .. 93 .. 117 .. 23 .. 49 Demoted to bullpen

Pub Date: 7/29/98

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