Front office again waves off any idea of adding Canseco

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Team sticks to plan to give youth a chance

Ripken slump deepens

April 11, 2001|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

BOSTON - Mired in a profound, season-long hitting slump, the Orioles could still have right-handed slugger Jose Canseco for a non-guaranteed contract that pays him the major-league minimum should he impress during a minor-league tryout.

The Orioles' response hasn't changed since spring training: no thanks.

"I'd say 90-95 percent is because of our approach, 5-10 percent is where Canseco is in his career," manager Mike Hargrove said before last night's return match against Hideo Nomo.

Jeff Borris, Canseco's agent, immediately phoned majority owner Peter Angelos upon Canseco's March 28 release by Anaheim. Borris said the Orioles were the first team he contacted.

The Orioles could have had Canseco's services for 30 days, risk free, according to Borris, by sending him to Triple-A Rochester, where he would try to impress enough to receive a major-league spot.

If the Orioles could not use him after 30 days, they would be obligated to grant his release. Had he made the team, Canseco would have received a base salary of $200,000, plus incentives that would kick in after 200 plate appearances.

This time, however, Angelos deferred to his "professionals."

"I thought there was real interest on Peter's part. He said he would discuss it with Syd [Thrift, vice president for baseball operations]. But when Syd called, he said they had no interest," Borris recalled.

Canseco's demands are minimal. According to Borris, he's currently mulling several minor-league offers that would pay him about $12,000 a month, the same sought from the Orioles.

Canseco, 36, finds his value crimped by a litany of injuries that makes him palatable as nothing more than a designated hitter, though Borris insists his client is sound. To prove the point, Canseco is preparing to work out in Miami this week for anyone willing to attend or dial into an uplink.

Though once intrigued, the Orioles believe such a move would undermine the credibility of their Kids Campaign. The same obstacles once presented by Albert Belle would be posed by Canseco.

"When we signed David Segui, we got a very good major-league hitter, but we also signed him because he represented a bat to replace Albert Belle," said Hargrove of last December's four-year, $28 million signing that seemingly contradicted the club's oft-stated direction."[Adding Canseco] might do something for us in the short term, but it wouldn't be good in the long term. We don't want to bring in a player who's going to block one of our younger kids - a Jay Gibbons, a Mike Kinkade or a Chris Richard. It just didn't make sense."

Waiting on Cal & Co.

Hargrove still can't believe the amount of attention that accompanies Cal Ripken's every move. That attention only swells when the 40-year-old third baseman slumps.

Ripken remained on his second stance of the season last night, double his number of hits (after going 0-for-3, he's 1-for-19), causing various Boston media outlets to speculate on the Iron Man's near future. All of which draws a sigh and perspective from the manager.

"A lot of guys are 1-for-16," Hargrove said, referring to Ripken's status before last night's game. "With the things Cal has done in this game, even last year before he got hurt, he adds things to the lineup and helps protect people around him. Eventually, Cal's going to get untracked,just like everybody else, and he's going to be fine. We've just got to be patient and let it happen."

Remembering Pops

Monday's death of Hall of Famer Willie Stargell was felt in the Orioles' clubhouse. The longtime Pittsburgh Pirates slugger not only helped beat the Orioles in the 1971 and 1979 World Series, he made a positive impact on all those he met, even those in the opposing clubhouse.

"Even though he was sitting across from you, you thought of him as a friend, the same way you'd think of a teammate," said bullpen coach and former catcher Elrod Hendricks. "He was a very good man, the kind of man when he dies you ask, `Why?' "

Stargell and Orioles major-league scout and former outfielder Curt Motton were high school teammates in Oakland. Hendricks met Stargell while playing winter ball and a friendship sprouted. At Stargell's request, Hendricks served during the mid-1970s as chairman of the Baltimore-area fund-raising effort to benefit sickle cell anemia research.

"He was the kind of guy you couldn't say no to because he would never say no to anybody for anything," Hendricks remembered. "Today's a sad day. I got up and didn't even want to read about it. Everyone knew he was sick, but you never expect it."

Mike Flanagan served up one of Stargell's three home runs in the '79 Series, ultimately won by the Pirates in seven games. Flanagan struck out Stargell in his first two at-bats before the Pirates' first baseman crushed a homer over the Orioles' bullpen at Memorial Stadium.

"I think I had given up only two or three home runs in my career to left-handed hitters before then," said Flanagan. "It was a bomb. I'll never forget how far that thing went."

Richard's return

Chris Richard ended his four-game absence from the lineup last night, returning from a jammed right shoulder to bat fifth behind Segui. He went 2-for-3.

The left-handed-hitting Richard suffered a bruised rotator cuff when diving for a fly ball in right field last Wednesday. He had taken batting practice Saturday and Sunday in Cleveland and was used as a pinch runner each day. Hargrove said Richard could have pinch-hit either day, but discretion was exercised.

Around the horn

When Jeff Conine homered in Sunday's first inning, it broke a string of five homerless games, the longest season-opening skid since the 1988 Orioles waited until Rick Schu homered in the fifth inning of their sixth game. ... The Red Sox's string of 61 consecutive home sellouts ended last night.

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