3 catchers could go north

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

`Haselman made my day very miserable ... the first guy I've had to release'

Orioles notebook

Baseball

March 26, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - With injuries leaving more room on the Orioles' 25-man roster, manager Lee Mazzilli said it's possible the team will carry three catchers when the exhibition schedule ends.

Bill Haselman and Robert Machado won't be among them.

The Orioles released Haselman before yesterday's 6-6 tie with the St. Louis Cardinals, and they later reassigned Machado to the minor league camp. Second baseman Mike Fontenot and outfielder Chad Mottola also were reassigned, and outfielder Tim Raines Jr. was optioned to Triple-A Ottawa.

Haselman appeared in four games, going 3-for-8 with an RBI and didn't play after catching seven innings in a March 18 loss to the Minnesota Twins in Fort Myers.

"Haselman made my day very miserable because it was very hard for me," Mazzilli said. "It was a tough call because he's a class individual. The last two days, I've kind of agonized because of the type of individual he is and where he's been in baseball. He's the first guy I've had to release in the big leagues. It's hard.

"You think about a lot of things when you make that cut, him and his family. You don't just come in and say, `You're not going to be on the roster. Have a nice life.' It doesn't work that way.

"He's someone I spoke to, that if he ever thought about staying in the game as a manager, you'd want him in your organization. He's a good baseball guy."

Haselman, 37, indicated early in camp that he would probably retire if he didn't make the team. He had no interest in going to Triple-A.

"He's going to go back and talk it over with his family," Mazzilli said. "I don't think you can make a major decision on a down note. You have to think things out."

The competition for the backup job to Javy Lopez has been narrowed to Keith Osik and Geronimo Gil - last year's starter on Opening Day. Carlos Mendez also remains in camp, but he has never caught in the majors.

Gil is 6-for-13 but had a passed ball yesterday after replacing Lopez. Osik is 1-for-13.

"I have a week left before the season, and I'm not sure where I'm going yet," Mazzilli said. "It could be three, depending on how many pitchers and infielders we carry. I have an idea where I'm leaning, but to say that now would be unfair to the other guys."

Good numbers for Raines

Raines can't blame his exit from camp on poor play.

Despite going 0-for-1 yesterday, Raines batted .344 in 17 games and forced Mazzilli to consider whether he wanted to keep another outfielder with Mark McLemore headed to the disabled list.

"I heard a few rumors in the off-season that I would be fighting for a job," he said. "This was the first time for me in big league spring training where my name was actually mentioned. It was hard to believe, with all the people here, but I figured I'd play hard and see what happened. Baseball is a weird game sometimes.

"I feel like I've taken advantage of the opportunity. I hope they've noticed and it helps me later in the season."

Raines, 24, was hoping to avoid another stay in Triple-A, but he's likely to be among the first players called up this season.

"I've been there the last few years, and I've played pretty well," he said. "But when the numbers are like this and I have [minor league] options left, it kind of hurts."

Wind gets Ponson

With the wind blowing in his face as he warmed up in the bullpen, Sidney Ponson had no idea what kind of stuff he would bring to the mound.

He faced the same elements once the game started, and Jim Edmonds took advantage with a two-run, opposite-field homer in the sixth that gave the Cardinals a 4-3 lead and completed the scoring against Ponson. The ball never would have reached the warning track, let alone dropped over the fence, without the wind.

"There's nothing you can do about it," Ponson said with a shrug.

Ponson was charged with four runs and eight hits in six innings. He threw 99 pitches.

"People who didn't watch the game and see the box score are going to say, `My God, he got hit hard,' but you can't do anything about the weather," he said.

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