Left off Mets' subway, McGuire hops O's ride

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Missed postseason hurts, but outfielder moves on

Baseball

February 28, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - As the 2000 Subway Series got under way, Ryan McGuire couldn't help but ponder what might have been. In the Orioles' camp this spring as a nonroster player, McGuire batted .298 in 122 games with Triple-A Norfolk, but the New York Mets virtually ignored him while tearing down their outfield.

Rickey Henderson, Darryl Hamilton and Derek Bell were replaced, because of injuries or poor play, by Benny Agbayani, Jay Payton and Timo Perez. Manager Bobby Valentine looked like a genius - he'd be the first to say so - while McGuire looked to be forgotten.

He made one start with the Mets that season, going 0-for-2 with a walk and being designated for assignment the next day. McGuire returned to Norfolk on June 7, where he hit 10 homers with 62 RBIs.

"I was hoping I would have at least gotten called up in September, but sometimes it's tough with teams like the Mets and the Yankees, where they have unlimited financial resources," he said. "They don't really need to call up guys from their Triple-A teams. If they feel like they need somebody, they'll just go and get it from somebody else's big-league team and pay the money for him.

"There are a lot of guys who have played for 15 years and never had the opportunity to be in the postseason or the World Series. I was sitting there like, `Oh man.' I felt like I had a pretty good year and had a lot of confidence. I felt like, `Maybe I could do something for them.' "

McGuire, who is competing for the last outfield spot on the 25-man roster, spent the entire 1998 season with Montreal. Appearing in 130 games, he hit .186 with one homer. He split 1999 between Triple-A Ottawa and Montreal before signing with the Mets as a free agent.

Signed the next year by the Florida Marlins, McGuire batted .301 at Triple-A Calgary, but .185 in 48 games in the majors. The Orioles contacted him in late October.

"When you're a free agent, you try to find a place that might be a good fit for you. And even more important, you try to find an organization that seems to be interested," he said. "You try to weigh the amount of interest with the opportunity and hope you find a good fit."

The competition for a reserve outfield role could be whittled to McGuire and Chad Allen, who's attempting to return from a serious knee injury last August.

"Obviously, I'd like to be in the big leagues, and I got the impression that there would be an opportunity for me here," said McGuire, 30. "I enjoy playing, and I feel like I'm getting better. When I was first in the big leagues, I wasn't as good a player as I am now."

McGuire looked pretty good in the Marlins' camp last year, but didn't make the club. "I had the best spring training that I ever had," he said. In 1998, McGuire's average was below .200 in the spring, but he headed north with Montreal.

"It's kind of funny how one year I didn't deserve to be on the team and I was. Last year, I played well and I wasn't. I guess it evens itself out sometimes."

Late arrivals

Shortstop Ed Rogers, one of the Orioles' top prospects, is expected to arrive in Fort Lauderdale either today or tomorrow after spending the first two weeks of camp trying to obtain his work visa in the Dominican Republic.

Eddy Garabito, who's also been detained, might not arrive until next week. He had an outside shot at making the club as a utility infielder before losing valuable time.

"He's a guy who needs to be here more than anybody else," said Syd Thrift, Orioles vice president for baseball operations.

"The good news is they both played winter ball, but they both still need to be here."

Towers healing

The proof that Josh Towers pitched in Tuesday's intrasquad game could be found on the inner half of his left foot, where a round bruise showed through his sandals.

Towers was hit by a hard grounder from Howie Clark, but completed the second inning. The discoloration and swelling were evident yesterday and prevented him from running.

Towers said the bruise won't affect his status for Saturday's exhibition game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Fort Lauderdale. "I can throw," he said. "I may not be able to run, but I can throw."

Maduro sharp

At least one pitcher showed yesterday that he's in midseason form.

Calvin Maduro, who led the Orioles with four pickoffs, caught Luis Matos too far off the bag in the first inning and got him in a rundown. Matos had singled with one out after Brian Roberts struck out on three pitches.

The bat flew out of Roberts' hands on the third strike and landed in front of Thrift, manager Mike Hargrove and pitching coach Mark Wiley as they sat on a bench beside the dugout. Hargrove handed it to Roberts as he walked toward them, head bowed and a sheepish grin on his face.

Around the horn

Roberts, Rogers, Jay Gibbons, Geronimo Gil and Sean Douglass signed contracts. The Orioles now have signed 28 of the 40 players on the major-league roster.

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