O's add infielder, show Worrell the door

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Waived Red M. Lewis is vet with Indians ties

Garcia on hot seat

April 27, 2000|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

CHICAGO --- The Orioles yesterday claimed Cincinnati Reds utility infielder Mark Lewis off waivers and created roster room by designating reliever Tim Worrell for assignment.

The move involving Worrell (2-2, 7.36) wasn't a surprise, but its timing was considered abrupt.

The long reliever admitted thinking he would likely be the one moved to create space for starting pitcher Scott Erickson, who might be activated from the disabled list in time for an April 30 appearance against the Texas Rangers. However, the timetable for Worrell accelerated when Lewis was placed on waivers and Orioles vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift put in a claim Tuesday.

"I didn't know what they would do, but to have them claim someone off the wire, I was surprised," said Worrell.

Manager Mike Hargrove broke the news to Worrell immediately after the pitcher entered the clubhouse. He explained the move as motivated more by a numbers crunch than an indictment on Worrell's performance. "It was his turn in the barrel," said Hargrove. "That's kind of a harsh term, but he was the guy we chose."

A free agent last winter, Worrell signed a minor-league contract on Feb. 4. The Orioles purchased the contract for $700,000 after he compiled a 2-1 record and 1.80 ERA in 15 innings this spring.

The Orioles have 10 days to trade Worrell or waive him. Should he clear waivers, Worrell could then accept or decline an assignment to Triple-A Rochester. Given he resides in Arizona, it's unlikely he would consent to duty in Rochester, N.Y.

"Syd's looking to trade me right now. They'll be able to designate me for assignment. I don't want to say what I'll do with all this happening," Worrell said.

The Orioles are obligated to pay his salary unless a trade can be found.

Worrell, who made 53 appearances last season with the Oakland Athletics, labored early this month, surrendering home runs in each of his first three appearances, then took the loss in his most recent outing, a nationally televised 11-inning game against the A's Sunday. It was Worrell's only appearance in the last eight days.

"Tim is a good pitcher; he's a good major-league pitcher," said Hargrove. "But with the left-handers we've got and the way they match up with all hitters, and then with [Mike] Timlin, [Mike] Trombley and [Calvin] Maduro, Tim made the most sense."

Thrift will try to drive home the point in talks with several possible trading partners. The Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds are believed to have some interest, especially since the asking price is only a nonroster prospect.

"Other teams saw the way I pitched, too. Hopefully, someone else needs some pitching at the big-league level," Worrell said.

Yesterday's move temporarily leaves Hargrove with 11 pitchers and suggests a player-for-pitcher move when Erickson leaves the disabled list. Thrift already tried to address infield depth by signing David Howard, who subsequently retired due to health problems. Lewis, 30, is a 10-year veteran whom the Cleveland Indians drafted with the first overall pick of the 1988 draft.

Barring a complication before Erickson is activated, yesterday's move suggests an imminent transaction involving rookie Jesse Garcia, who is hitless in 10 at-bats and has played in only four games.

"I think it's obvious when Scotty Erickson comes back, another move will be made," Hargrove said. "I don't feel real comfortable with 11 pitchers."

Lewis, a career .265 hitter, was hitting only .105 (2-for-19) when the Orioles filed their claim. He is considered most adept at third base. The Orioles have exposed Jeff Conine to the position but view Lewis as a more viable defensive alternative at the position.

"He's a good major-league player," Hargrove said. "He's a good athlete."

Lewis is expected to report in time for this afternoon's series finale against the White Sox.

Maduro on the mend

A night after being struck on the right shin by a Greg Norton line drive, Maduro indicated he will be available again no later than tomorrow. Yesterday he walked through the clubhouse with an ice pack attached to his leg just above the ankle and today will receive ultrasound.

"It's much better than last night," Maduro said. "I couldn't even walk after the game. Now I can feel it, at least."

Maduro was able to scramble after the sixth-inning line drive in time to get the out against Norton and was lifted for Buddy Groom. "It was strange. I was able to run after the ball and get the out. Then I started feeling it -- bad."

Thomas fine at first

Maybe he should play first base more often.

Chicago's Frank Thomas, back at the position for the first time since April 9, had a grand slam and a sacrifice fly last night.

Whether he likes it or not, Thomas has always put up better numbers when he's playing first. He's a career .337 hitter at first, compared with .290 as a designated hitter. He won both his MVPs as an everyday first baseman. And his slump the last two years? It came as a DH.

Thomas went back to first without complaint in spring training, but moved to DH on April 11 because of tendinitis in his right foot.

Thomas, who occasionally heard boos last season, welcomed the ovation after his grand slam.

"I don't want to live in the past anymore," he said. "I'm happy to see fans standing and cheering."

Mascot tryouts

The Orioles are looking to expand their pool of mascots and will hold auditions for those interested in serving as the ever-popular Orioles Bird on May 16-17, at Camden Yards.

In order to receive consideration, those interested must submit an application by May 10. To receive an application, call the Orioles' Community Relations Department at 410-547-6140.

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