At his own request, veteran McLemore released by Orioles

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Injured infielder did not want to open year on minor league DL

Opening Night

April 04, 2004|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - Utility infielder Mark McLemore, who was destined for the Opening Day roster when he suffered a knee injury two weeks ago, was released by the Orioles yesterday at his request.

McLemore, 39, apparently was uncomfortable with opening the season on the minor league disabled list and asked the club for a guarantee that he would be placed on the major league roster immediately upon his healthy return from March 19 arthroscopic surgery.

"We told him and his agent [Tony Attanasio] that is what we fully intended to do," said Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Jim Beattie, "but we couldn't make any guarantee because we don't know what's going to happen between now and then. Maz [Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli] also talked to him and assured him that was our intention."

Attanasio, reached at his office in San Diego, said McLemore could be ready to play in as little as two weeks, and expressed confidence he could find him another major league job.

"I've talked to Mac and his doctor, and I know he's going to be ready to play between the 15th and the 20th," Attanasio said. "It's my job to convince a team that he is capable of playing at a high level. It's not really a matter of money. It's a matter of a veteran player being on a major league roster."

McLemore is an unrestricted free agent who is eligible to sign with any team. It is even conceivable that he could re-sign with the Orioles later this month. Attanasio, who also represents Mazzilli, said the negotiations were amicable enough that they could be resurrected.

"Absolutely," Attanasio said. "Mac loves Baltimore. It was in Baltimore that his career turned around. We have great respect for everyone there and appreciated the professional way that this was handled."

McLemore was expected to miss the first month of the regular season, then replace either utility infielder Luis Lopez or Rule 5 draftee Jose Bautista. Now, both of those players have a chance to stay around for a while, because Beattie said there are no immediate plans to seek additional help.

"We'll be monitoring how the club does and see how well those guys do," Beattie said. "They played well for us in spring training. We don't necessarily have to make a decision, because these things often play themselves out."

Final cuts

The Orioles made their final roster cuts of the spring, sending out Darnell McDonald, Aaron Rakers and Darwin Cubillan to get down to 25 players for Opening Night.

The only real suspense was the choice between the multi-dimensional McDonald and power prospect Jack Cust. The Orioles chose to go with the player who was out of minor league options, even though Cust did not have a particularly impressive spring.

The decision leaves the club heavy with left-handed depth, but Mazzilli said that would not be a major concern in the early weeks of the season.

"No, because we can DH Javy [Lopez] against some left-handers," Mazzilli said, "and we're not going to get a lot of left-handers in our division. The Yankees and Red Sox don't have any in their rotations."

The Orioles entered the day with 39 players on their 40-man major league roster. The club purchased the contracts of B.J. Surhoff, Keith Osik and Luis Lopez, and made room for them by placing Omar Daal on the 60-day disabled list and designating pitcher John Stephens for assignment.

Administrative moves

The Orioles also placed second baseman Jerry Hairston and outfielder Marty Cordova on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to March 26.

Segui settles in

Mazzilli recognizes that David Segui is a physical question mark, but he said yesterday that he is impressed with the veteran first baseman's determination to come back and contribute in spite of a chronically sore left wrist.

"He's swinging real well right now," Mazzilli said.

Opening Night events

Music: Starting at 1 p.m., Opening Day All-Day Music Festival at the north end of Eutaw Street.

Park opens: 5 p.m.

Orioles batting practice: 5:25 p.m.

Red Sox batting practice: 6:25 p.m.

Field preparation: 7:05 to 7:30 p.m.

Pre-game activities, introductions: Ceremonies begin at 7:30 p.m. Announced by Chuck Thompson and Jim Hunter.

National anthem: Performed by Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Flag from Fort McHenry to be unfurled over center-field wall.

First pitch: 8:05 p.m.

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