Orioles waive two arms away

Kohlmeier, Paronto lost as Belle's presence on roster adds to crunch

November 20, 2001|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

The Orioles continued to pay interest on their $65 million signing of Albert Belle yesterday afternoon as young relievers Ryan Kohlmeier and Chad Paronto were lost to waiver claims by the Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Indians.

With a space reserved for the de facto retired Belle on their 40-man major-league roster, the Orioles also outrighted utility player Mike Kinkade to Triple-A Rochester.

However, Kinkade may choose to become a free agent - leverage he will likely exercise - meaning his term with the Orioles concludes after a season in which he briefly auditioned as heir to third baseman Cal Ripken before finishing with a .275 average and 16 RBIs but without a position.

The Orioles' moves came before major-league clubs must submit their rosters to the commissioner's office today. With their roster at 35, the Orioles intend to add the names of several prospects today while possibly leaving a vacancy for a free-agent signing.

While jettisoning Kinkade did not represent a surprise, the loss of two organizational products illustrates the predicament created by carrying two inactive players - Belle, physically unable to perform because of a degenerative hip condition, and starting pitcher Pat Hentgen, who underwent ligament transplant surgery last summer and is uncertain to contribute next season.

Belle's contract remains an anvil. It runs through 2003 and calls for him to receive $13 million a season. Because the Orioles are insured for 70 percent of the contract, they can not release him without forfeiting reimbursement. Likewise, Belle's retirement would rescind the club's obligation to him.

Kohlmeier, 24, converted 13 of 14 saves in 2000, making him the second-most prolific rookie closer in club history. Still classified as a rookie last season, Kohlmeier did not retain the precise command that sparked his earlier success. He was twice optioned to Triple-A Rochester while going 1-2 with six saves and a 7.30 ERA in 34 games with the Orioles.

The White Sox, already blessed with one of the game's deepest stables of young pitching, claimed Kohlmeier as a possible addition in middle relief.

Paronto, 26, an eighth-round draft pick in 1996, was 1-3 with a 5.00 ERA in 24 relief appearances for the Orioles. He finished the season at Rochester trying to refine a power assortment once considered among the organization's best.

"When we evaluated everybody, we didn't conclude that [Kohlmeier and Paronto] were bad pitchers," said Syd Thrift, the Orioles' vice president of baseball operations. "We merely asked who has the higher upside, this pitcher or somebody else. The answer is the ones we still have."

The ascendance of 22-year-old Jorge Julio made both pitchers expendable. However, the inclusion of Belle and Hentgen only further complicated roster construction.

"I was a little surprised by it," Kohlmeier said. "My first thought was I had been traded somewhere. I was a little disappointed they put me on waivers because I thought I took some good steps."

Kinkade, who underwent wrist surgery shortly after the season, was one of nine players reinstated from the 60-day disabled list yesterday but the only deletion from the major-league roster. Pitchers Scott Erickson, Josh Towers, Luis Rivera, Matt Riley and Hentgen, shortstop Mike Bordick along with designated hitter/outfielder Jay Gibbons and Belle were reinstated.

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