Conine stays in nest for 2 years, $9.25M

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Veteran MVP rewarded with extension

surgeries of Matos, Parrish go well

Baseball

March 23, 2002|By Roch Kubatko and Joe Christensen | Roch Kubatko and Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - The Orioles made their commitment to Jeff Conine official yesterday by signing him to a two-year, $9.25 million contract extension, locking up one of their most marketable players while praising his versatility and veteran leadership.

The deal includes a $4.75 million club option in 2005 and a $250,000 buyout. Conine, who is making $3.5 million this season, will receive $4.25 million next year and $4.75 million in 2004.

Conine, 35, celebrated the news by hitting a run-scoring double in the first inning and scoring on a Jay Gibbons single in the Orioles' 4-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. His nine RBIs lead the club this spring.

One year after arriving at spring training without a position, Conine is expected to be a regular presence in the lineup at first base and right field. He'll also serve as designated hitter and back up third baseman Tony Batista after hitting .311 with 97 RBIs and being named Most Valuable Oriole.

"I'm extremely happy to get to play in a place that I've thoroughly enjoyed over the last few years. And hopefully I'll get to experience some jewelry with this team," said Conine, who won a World Series ring with the Florida Marlins in 1997.

"This is my first and foremost choice to play. That facility, the fans, the organization - it was a no-brainer."

So was the deal that brought him to the Orioles. Former general manager Frank Wren only had to give up minor-league pitcher Chris Fussell to obtain Conine from the Kansas City Royals toward the end of spring training in 1999. Fussell made one appearance this spring before being reassigned to the Royals' minor-league camp.

"I told Jeff it's always a privilege for me to be a part of rewarding a person who's a top producer both on and off the field," said Syd Thrift, the Orioles' vice president for baseball operations. "He's really been a team player and he's certainly an inspiration to all our young players."

Conine is open to extending his career beyond the length of his contract.

"I've always taken it upon myself to stay in good shape," he said. "It seems like every off-season I meet a person who has a unique and somewhat bizarre workout regimen for me that I love to try.

"That's what baseball's all about. You've got to adapt to your surroundings, your conditions. I'm going to do whatever I can to make myself a better ballplayer every year. At the end of this contract, I'll re-evaluate and see how I'm producing."

Doctor's office

The Orioles have received positive reports on two players who underwent surgery this week.

Outfielder Luis Matos had the broken hamate bone removed from his left hand during Monday's procedure at Johns Hopkins Hospital. No cartilage damage was found, and club officials anticipate Matos will resume baseball-related activities in six weeks.

And pitcher John Parrish had surgery yesterday on his right knee after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament March 5 against Minnesota.

Speaking about Matos, Thrift said there were "no complications at all."

Gibbons suffered the same injury last August and still had pain in his wrist while playing winter ball. But he also had cartilage damage that prevented him from swinging a bat comfortably until January's injury rehab camp in Sarasota, Fla.

Doctors discovered that Matos' hamate bone already had been fractured and healed. He reinjured it while swinging at a pitch during a March 9 game against Texas.

Parrish most likely will miss the entire 2002 season, though he remains hopeful of making a few appearances in the Gulf Coast League later this summer.

"That went very well," Thrift said of the surgery. "He'll remain in Baltimore to start participating in his rehab. We don't know how long that will take, but the surgery was very successful."

Palmer has eye surgery

Orioles television analyst Jim Palmer underwent surgery last week to repair a detached retina in his left eye.

The Hall of Fame pitcher was back at Fort Lauderdale Stadium yesterday and said he wasn't sure if he'll have to miss any telecasts while he's recovering. For the time being, doctors have instructed Palmer not to fly.

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