Moriarty happy to get call from O's

Orioles notebook

Former Twins farmhand hoping for utility role

February 24, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - For Mike Moriarty, a rumor concerning the Orioles' interest in him last season was confirmed with one phone call.

It came from Syd Thrift, vice president for baseball operations, on the first day teams were permitted to contact free agents. Moriarty noted the time: 11 a.m. This was pretty serious.

"That showed me something," he said. "That showed me he must like me, or somebody in this organization wants me."

With his club decimated by injuries even as rosters expanded in September, Thrift attempted to pry Moriarty from the Minnesota Twins' organization. Moriarty remained at Triple-A Edmonton, where he spent the entire season. Thrift remained in a bind.

"I needed him here," Thrift said.

"I did hear something about that," Moriarty said.

Seeking more organizational depth, Thrift went after Moriarty again after the season. "He was one of the first guys I called and he signed just like that," Thrift said, snapping his fingers. "He's always been a pretty good infielder."

He's also always been stuck in the minors, including the past four seasons at Triple-A, since the Twins chose him in the seventh round of the 1995 draft out of Seton Hall University. But there's no trace of bitterness. Though admittedly frustrated, Moriarty sees the .243 average he posted last year, the .249 average in 2000, and knows he could have done better.

"Nobody gives you anything in this life, and I didn't put up stellar numbers the past couple of years. I have nobody to blame but myself," said Moriarty, who hit 26 homers the past two seasons. "I got off to some really slow starts, but I know I can do a pretty solid job in the big leagues. But again, I'm not looking for anybody to give me anything. I've got to earn my way there. Nobody's going to give me a job in the big leagues. I've got to earn it at this level, which I'm looking forward to doing."

No longer viewed as an everyday presence in the lineup, Melvin Mora becomes the Orioles' primary utility player, able to move from the outfield to the infield without a hitch. A competition is developing between infielders Moriarty and Brian Roberts, who appeared in 75 games with the Orioles last season, for another utility role. Eddy Garabito, who played at Triple-A Rochester last season, is losing ground while trying to obtain his work visa in the Dominican Republic.

If manager Mike Hargrove goes with his stated preference of having Roberts play every day, Moriarty seems more likely to head north with the Orioles while the former supplemental draft pick continues his maturation at Rochester.

"I'm looking forward to this," said Moriarty, a natural shortstop who also played second and third last year, and pitched in a game. "I think there's an opportunity here. I think I can do something here. If I play well enough, who knows what could happen?

"I'm just going to go out there and bust my butt, so to speak, and give 110 percent offensively and defensively. That's pretty much all you can do."

Looking for power

As a Rule 5 pick, Jay Gibbons had to stay with the Orioles for the entire 2001 season or be offered back to Toronto for $25,000. The club has no such obligation this year, but Hargrove said, "I'll be surprised if he's not on the team. If he's not, it's because someone else did a real good job."

Someone had better assist Gibbons in the power department. He hit 15 homers in 73 games as a rookie before breaking a bone in his right hand, giving the Orioles a long-ball threat from the left side.

They'd take such a commodity from either side.

The Orioles don't have anyone on their roster who hit at least 19 homers last season while playing exclusively for them. Tony Batista totaled 25, including 13 with Toronto, and Marty Cordova hit 20 with Cleveland. The Orioles' 136 homers rated ahead of only Tampa Bay in the American League.

"We don't have a lot of guys, other than Batista, with a track record," Hargrove said. "We're not going to beat people over the head with the home run ball, but we're not anemic by any stretch of the imagination."

Around the horn

Pitcher Pat Hentgen extended his long-tossing from 50 to 60 feet yesterday and said his arm felt good. ... Like Garabito, minor-league infielder Ed Rogers also remains in the Dominican Republic while trying to obtain his work visa, and it's unknown when he'll arrive in camp. He had no shot at making the club, even with perfect attendance. ... Heavy rain during the night, which left large puddles on the two uncovered back fields, forced the Orioles into the indoor batting cages as part of a modified workout.

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