Orioles set roster with room to move

Club leaves 5 spots

deal for first baseman looms

November 21, 2003|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

On a day major league teams had to set their 40-man rosters, the Orioles set theirs at 35 yesterday, adding some top pitching prospects, but leaving room for some important moves to come.

A slew of players came off the roster when their contracts expired - a group including Albert Belle, Scott Erickson, Tony Batista, Brook Fordyce and Pat Hentgen - and the Orioles are in the process of finding their replacements.

"We feel we've got some flexibility within this roster," said Orioles executive vice president Jim Beattie. "If we go out and sign three or four or five free agents, or make a trade, we're going to be positioned pretty well."

Beattie and vice president Mike Flanagan aren't saying which moves they are trying to make, but major league sources have indicated the Orioles may be closing in on a deal for a power-hitting first baseman, either Florida's Derrek Lee or Milwaukee's Richie Sexson.

The Orioles apparently have separate packages ready to offer both teams, depending on which one bites first. It's still uncertain which players the Orioles are offering, but the price for Sexson is said to be substantially higher than the price for Lee.

Both players are 28, and both will be eligible for free agency after next season.

Beattie and Flanagan are also making progress on the free-agent front.

Beattie declined to enter into specifics, but the Orioles could be ready to make their first offers to free-agent sluggers Vladimir Guerrero and Miguel Tejada by next week.

"You can't just keep beating around the bush," Beattie said. "At some point, you have to start putting some money on the table, and we're getting closer to being able to do that."

For now, the Orioles can add to their 40-man roster without having to expose a player through waivers. Teams had to place players on the 40-man roster yesterday to protect them from being picked in the Dec. 15 Rule 5 draft.

But it's not uncommon for teams to go into that draft with fewer than 40 players protected. A year ago, the Boston Red Sox went in with 31 players on their 40-man roster.

Two notable players the Orioles left unprotected included outfielder Keith Reed, and left-handed pitcher Richard Stahl. Both of them were first-round picks in the 1999 draft.

"Obviously," Beattie said, "if we felt we had players we didn't want to lose, we'd put them on the roster."

Roenicke returns

The Orioles brought back former outfielder Gary Roenicke as a professional scout. He played in Baltimore from 1978 to 1985, batting .250 with 106 home runs and 352 RBIs.

Around the horn

The Orioles claimed first baseman Walter Young off waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates and added him to the 40-man roster. Young, 23, hit .278 with 20 home runs and 87 RBIs last year for Single-A Lynchburg. "He'll be 24 in Double-A this year." Beattie said. "We added a big bat." ... Others added to the roster included pitching prospects Denny Bautista, David Crouthers, Brian Forystek, Ryan Hannaman, Eddy Rodriguez and Erik Bedard.

Orioles roster

Pitchers (21): Kurt Ainsworth, Rick Bauer, Denny Bautista, Erik Bedard, Daniel Cabrera, David Crouthers, Omar Daal, Eric DuBose, Brian Forystek, Buddy Groom, Ryan Hannaman, Jason Johnson, Jorge Julio, Adam Loewen, Rodrigo Lopez, Damian Moss, John Parrish, Matt Riley, Eddy Rodriguez, B.J. Ryan, John Stephens.

Catchers (1): Geronimo Gil.

Infielders (5): Jerry Hairston, Jose Morban, Brian Roberts, David Segui, Walter Young.

Outfielders (8): Larry Bigbie, Marty Cordova, Jack Cust, Jay Gibbons, Luis Matos, Darnell McDonald, Melvin Mora, Tim Raines Jr.

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