Guerrero's agent says star not anti-Baltimore in decision for Angels

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Hispanic community in L.A. termed `factor'

Griffin also made contact

Orioles notebook

Baseball

January 14, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

Vladimir Guerrero's agent wanted to set the record straight yesterday.

Fernando Cuza, who handled most of the negotiations with the Orioles before Guerrero signed with the Anaheim Angels, heard lots of speculation that the former Montreal Expos right fielder never wanted to come to Baltimore in the first place.

Guerrero, 27, turned down a six-year, $78 million offer from the Orioles before signing a five-year, $70 million contract with the Anaheim Angels with an option for 2009 that could bring the total to $82 million.

"It had nothing to do with him not wanting to go [to Baltimore]," said Cuza, who also represents recent Orioles additions Miguel Tejada and Rafael Palmeiro. "You look at what they've done this offseason and they've done a good job.

"They're definitely going in the right direction."

Cuza said the larger Hispanic community in the Los Angeles area "was a factor." Guerrero's older brother, Wilton, played for the Dodgers and had good things to say about Southern California. Not only that, but the Angels have also signed Bartolo Colon, Kelvim Escobar and Jose Guillen this offseason, trying to regain their momentum after winning the 2002 World Series.

"They have a bunch of good guys, and they definitely have a chance to win," Cuza said. "Vladimir got a call from [Angels first base coach] Alfredo Griffin. He's one of the most-respected former players from the Dominican, and he let him know all about the team."

Ponson talks continue

The Orioles were still trying to put the finishing touches on a three-year contract for free agent starting pitcher Sidney Ponson last night.

They have been hoping to re-sign him for about $21 million, which is the same amount he turned down before they traded him to the San Francisco Giants last season.

Osik apparently signs

According to two industry sources, the Orioles added to their catching depth yesterday, signing Keith Osik, who played seven seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates before playing with the Milwaukee Brewers last season.

Osik hit .249 with two home runs and 21 RBIs in 80 games with the Brewers last year. With Javy Lopez expected to get the bulk of the catching duty for the Orioles, Osik will be fighting for a backup job this spring with Geronimo Gil, Bill Haselman and Raul Casanova.

Familiar face

Manager Lee Mazzilli spoke to Palmeiro on Monday, one of many conversations between them through the years. As the New York Yankees' first base coach, Mazzilli usually was in close range, and rarely at a loss for words.

"I couldn't help but get to know him," Palmeiro said. "It was hard for me to stay focused because we'd carry on a conversation the whole game."

Sun staff writer Roch Kubatko contributed to this article.

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