Scouted Myers adds three hits to O's merit badge, just in case

Veteran catcher unsure if he's staying or going

Baseball

March 26, 2001|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

JUPITER, Fla. - Reserve catcher Greg Myers didn't know if he was auditioning or not. He didn't know if the ever-present cluster of scouts behind home plate at Roger Dean Stadium was charting his progress or oblivious to his plight. He only knew that it never hurts to put on a good show.

Myers did that yesterday, reeling off three straight hits and launching his second home run of the spring in the Orioles' 7-1 victory over the Montreal Expos.

Now, he can go back to waiting and wondering. He is a veteran backup catcher on a team that is leaning toward youth and weighing the future of a decent prospect who is out of minor-league options.

"It's not comfortable," Myers said. "Obviously, I'd like to know something as soon as I can."

Like where he might be playing this year.

His name has been prominent in trade rumors throughout the exhibition season. There are several teams that would appear to need some depth and experience behind the plate. The Atlanta Braves stand out, since starter Javy Lopez is out a few more weeks with a broken finger and backup Eddie Perez just went down for the season, but Braves officials have indicated that they will go with third-string catcher Paul Bako until Lopez comes back in a few weeks.

There also are the Orioles, who can make a good case for keeping both Myers and ex-Brave Fernando Lunar to back up starter Brook Fordyce.

"We may go with four catchers," said manager Mike Hargrove, who hasn't ruled versatile prospect Mike Kinkade out of the mix. "It's possible. Everything is still on the table."

Myers has done everything he can to make the decision turn in his favor. His 3-for-4 performance in yesterday's game raised his exhibition average to .341.

"That helps," he said, "though I think I've played well enough in my career that people aren't going to judge me off one spring training."

Maybe so, but when you're a 34-year-old journeyman catcher, there's no sense giving anyone an excuse to go in another direction.

"It's important for any player not to let a situation affect the way they play," Hargrove said, "because you never know who might be watching. I'm not saying that we're trying to trade him, because to my knowledge we aren't, but it's always good for a player in that position to do well in spring training."

There were about eight scouts in attendance at the game, but no one from the Braves or the Arizona Diamondbacks - two of the National League clubs with the most obvious need.

The likelihood of a trade at this late stage in spring training seems low, because teams will be shedding extra players over the coming week and waiting to see who shows up on the waiver wire. Several catchers could become available at that point and teams would not have to give up anything to sign them.

Orioles vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift indicated yesterday that the club will not be giving away Myers or Lunar. When Thrift was asked if the club would carry both rather than lose one on waivers, he answered with an unequivocal "Yes!"

Myers has tried all spring to keep his mind off the things that he cannot control, but it isn't easy.

"They're in a tough situation," he said of the Orioles. "They've got a guy with no options left, and it really doesn't make sense to keep three catchers in the American League. I'm just going to have to wait and see like everybody else."

Chances are, he'll end up in the No. 2 role behind Fordyce, since he is the only one of the Orioles' four catching candidates who hits from the left side of the plate.

If the club really wants to trade him, it might be better to wait until some club has an urgent need during the regular season. Right now, the law of supply and demand seems to be working against the Orioles.

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