O's refuse to check youth swing, turn down Canseco bid


Released slugger inquires

`A' team finally on field


March 31, 2001|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Though intrigued by the possibility of increasing the team's power with a veteran who ranks third among active players in home runs, vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift said the Orioles won't pursue Jose Canseco after he was released by the Anaheim Angels.

Canseco's agent, Jeff Borris, has contacted the Orioles about the 36-year-old outfielder/designated hitter. Thrift indicated he held some interest, but he decided against offering Canseco a minor-league contract with an opportunity to join the club once the season began.

"We decided not to go in that direction," Thrift said.

"It's very simple. We're not interested. We're going to stick with our same plan and not deviate."

Consideration had been given to placing Canseco at Triple-A Rochester if he didn't receive a major-league job and was willing to restart his career in the International League.

But Thrift said, "We have young players who can play at Rochester."

The Angels had signed Canseco to a minor-league deal in January with a spring training invitation, but released him Wednesday after acquiring Glenallen Hill from the New York Yankees. Canseco, who ranks 23rd all-time on baseball's home run list with 446, batted .231 with no homers and three RBIs in 13 exhibition games.

Once rated among baseball's most gifted athletes, Canseco has become a one-dimensional player with a long history of injuries. He's been on the disabled list seven times in the past six seasons, and missed 11 games this spring for health-related reasons.

Manager Mike Hargrove confirmed that the Orioles held no interest in pursuing Canseco, who ended last season with the Yankees.

J. Johnson awaits the word

Jason Johnson says he's still in the dark. Some light should be shed upon him in Atlanta.

That's where the Orioles conclude their spring schedule today, having left South Florida behind after yesterday's 4-3 win over the New York Mets. And that's where Johnson figures to learn whether he's really the No. 3 starter in a rotation that wasn't certain of having room for him when the club arrived here.

Johnson had been battling to make it as the fifth starter before the field thinned out when prospects like John Parrish and Jay Spurgeon didn't pitch well enough to warrant consideration. But Johnson would have stood out in a crowd, with only five earned runs allowed in 22 innings.

His three wins lead the Orioles. His turnaround from a horrendous 2000 season remains one of the camp's biggest stories.

"I'm very excited to be able to break camp," said Johnson, who pitched himself off the club last spring before tying the franchise record by losing his first eight decisions. "There weren't a whole lot of people saying I was going to break with the team after the year I had. I worked hard this off-season and I'm really happy and really satisfied with how it went."

With Jose Mercedes unwilling to be the third starter because of a superstition about the number 3, Johnson figures to climb a notch from No. 4, putting him behind Pat Hentgen and Sidney Ponson. But he said nobody from the organization has given him a designation. Let it be one of spring training's worst-kept secrets.

"I guess I'll find out when the time comes, probably after Atlanta," he said. "Just to be on the team was really a key coming into spring training. Being three, four, five doesn't matter to me. I figure I'm going to see the same lineups no matter who I'm pitching against or what part of the rotation I'm in."

Johnson will start today's game against the Braves at Turner Field. Having been extended to six innings in his last Grapefruit League appearance, he'll be limited to four or five before the Orioles' third starter is needed on April 5.

"There are a lot of guys who are going to have to throw," he said. "That's fine with me. I'll be ready no matter what."

No need to hurry

It took until the 30th game of spring training for the Orioles to put their projected Opening Day lineup on the field.

They came close on Thursday, with David Segui making his first start since March 12 because of a strained hamstring and Cal Ripken playing in his sixth consecutive game since his fractured rib healed. But Brian Roberts started at shortstop instead of Mike Bordick, and Fernando Lunar replaced Brook Fordyce behind the plate.

Hargrove used his `A' team yesterday against Mets starter Kevin Appier. Brady Anderson led off as the designated hitter, followed by Bordick, Delino DeShields, Segui, Chris Richard, Ripken, Fordyce, Melvin Mora and Jerry Hairston. The most obvious potential change by Monday would be Anderson's insertion in left field, with DeShields being the DH. But the names, and the order they appear on the lineup card, should remain the same.

Not wanting to tip his hand, Hargrove said, "I think it's pretty close. You can write that. It could be right or it could be wrong. It probably wouldn't be wrong. It's close."

Around the horn

THE NUMBER: 27 - Players remaining on the Orioles' active camp roster.

INJURY REPORT: Segui made his second consecutive start and doubled off the right-center-field fence in the first inning. Segui hadn't played since March 12 until pinch-hitting in Wednesday's game in Viera, Fla. ... Ripken swung the bat with more authority, getting a single in the fourth inning and a sacrifice fly in the ninth that tied the game.

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