Looking for lefty, O's feel right about Perez

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Team signs relief pitcher to minor-league contract

Orioles

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

VIERA, Fla. - Looking for left-handed relief insurance, the Orioles signed veteran Yorkis Perez to a minor-league contract yesterday and assigned him to Triple-A Rochester.

There are no immediate plans to add Perez, 34, to the major-league roster. He reported to the minor-league camp in Sarasota, Fla., while the Orioles prepared to face the Florida Marlins at Space Coast Stadium.

Mel Didier, a special assistant to vice president for baseball operations Syd Thrift, had been scouting Perez before the pitcher's release this spring by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Perez became expendable once Arizona traded for left-hander Mike Myers.

"He's been pitching real well," Thrift said. "I think the deal he had was, if he didn't get with the major-league team, he would be able to go somewhere else. He wanted to come here."

Thrift contracted representatives for Perez on Tuesday night. "He was already packed and ready to go," Thrift said.

Perez has pitched in the majors for five clubs, most recently the Houston Astros in 2000, when he appeared in 33 games. He spent last season with the Mexico City Reds after being released by the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 1, going 2-4 with a 3.51 ERA in 57 games.

"I think he's a good, first-rate insurance policy, because he can get left-handed hitters out," Thrift said. "If you need him, you know what he can do."

The Orioles might need him. John Parrish most likely will miss the entire 2002 season after having surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament. And John Bale has been bothered this spring by stiffness in his left elbow.

Perez lost his mother and sister in the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 in Queens, N.Y., on Nov. 12. He had planned to take the flight but stayed back, at his mother's urging, to pursue a major-league job.

No Alfonseca for O's

Looking to slash payroll, the Marlins dealt closer Antonio Alfonseca and pitcher Matt Clement to the Chicago Cubs yesterday for pitcher Julian Tavarez and three minor-leaguers. The Marlins saved about $7 million while also ending any discussions with the Orioles for Alfonseca.

The Marlins sought left-hander B.J. Ryan, among others, for a pitcher who had surgery on Oct. 6 for a herniated disc. The Orioles would like to obtain a proven closer, but not one at such a high cost and with health issues.

Thrift said the Orioles never made an offer for Alfonseca. "We were concerned about his weight coming off the surgery," Thrift said.

None of the minor-leaguers is considered a top prospect, which further angered the Marlins' clubhouse. Florida general manager Larry Beinfest contacted Thrift yesterday to alert him of the pending trade with the Cubs. When Thrift reminded him that the Orioles would be in Viera later in the day, Beinfest indicated it was too late.

"They've been talking to us for two or three weeks. The guys they wanted from me were closer to the big leagues. They had one foot in the door," Thrift said.

Unless they can make a trade, the Orioles will go into the season with a committee that includes Willis Roberts, Jorge Julio and Buddy Groom.

Still no starting catcher

Orioles manager Mike Hargrove has until Monday to designate a starting catcher. It appears he will use most, if not all, of the available time.

"I really have not decided on that," he said. "I change my mind every day."

Hargrove indicated that an announcement might not come until Sunday at Camden Yards.

"I can guarantee I'll tell the catchers before I tell you [reporters]," he said.

It appears that the club will take three catchers into the regular season while going with an 11-man pitching staff that will expand once fifth starter Calvin Maduro comes off the disabled list.

Thrift optimistic on Richard

Thrift said he believes outfielder Chris Richard could be ready before the All-Star break after watching him hit off a tee.

Richard had surgery in November to reattach the capsule in his left shoulder and clean some fraying in the rotator cuff. He didn't report to camp until last Thursday, but said he was ahead of schedule and shouldn't need until the second half to be activated from the 60-day disabled list.

"He takes care of himself," Thrift said.

Around the horn

The Orioles have hired Cedric Landrum as a minor-league field coach. Landrum will be assigned to rookie-level Bluefield or the Gulf Coast team. ... The Orioles depart Florida after today's game, with a gradual climb north that includes stops in Atlanta and Louisville, Ky.

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