Gil gets backup catcher job

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Fasano, 5 others sent to minors

Williams hoping for spot

Cabrera, Bedard switched

March 29, 2005|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - The Orioles included Sal Fasano among their six cuts yesterday, clearing the way for Geronimo Gil to serve as the backup catcher on Opening Day.

Fasano was reassigned to the minor league camp in Sarasota, along with nonroster invitees Keith Reed, Napoleon Calzado, Ed Rogers and Keith McDonald. All five players will accompany the team to Oklahoma City for a two-game exhibition series against the St. Louis Cardinals that begins Thursday.

Tim Raines Jr. was optioned to Triple-A Ottawa, bringing the spring roster to 34 players. Five of them likely will go on the major league or minor league disabled list.

Gil got the bulk of the work behind starter Javy Lopez. He's batting .313 (10-for-32) with one homer and four RBIs.

Fasano, who has gone 10 straight games without catching, is batting .231 (3-for-13) with one homer and two RBIs. He spent last season at Triple-A Columbus with the New York Yankees and must decide whether to accept his assignment to the minors.

"That's something me and my wife have to talk about a little bit more," he said. "There's a pretty good chance I'll end up going to Ottawa. I think Baltimore's still the best place I can make it to the big leagues, but you never know. It's a family decision. You can't just make it on a whim."

With only 13 at-bats, Fasano accumulated the same number as Reed and one more than Calzado, two minor league outfielders who had no chance of making the team.

"I wouldn't say I got an opportunity, not an equal enough part of the catching to prove what I can do," Fasano said. "But that decision wasn't up to me. That's something the management wanted to do and there was nothing I could do. It's unfortunate because I would have liked to have caught a little bit more."

Fasano most likely will be the backup in Ottawa to catching prospect Eli Whiteside, though he could get the first chance to rejoin the Orioles if Gil or Lopez is injured.

"I just hope I play a little more than once a week or twice a week. I want to play every day," Fasano said.

"That's why there's more to the decision than just accepting an assignment. I still see myself as a big league player. I don't see myself as a Triple-A player. But sometimes you have to deal with the cards that you're dealt."

Fate keeps spinning Gil in every direction. He was the Opening Day starter in 2003 and spent most of 2004 at Ottawa. Now he's back in the majors as a reserve, barring a late trade.

"I don't know anything about it, but I'm really happy to get that chance," he said through an interpreter, former Orioles pitcher Dennis Martinez. "If they give me the chance to be the backup catcher, I'll be happy to do that and do the best I can.

"I always feel like No. 1, but I know I'm behind somebody else who has been around longer than me and puts up good numbers."

Williams looks for way in

If the decision was based purely on statistics, reliever Todd Williams would be a lock to make the team. But some numbers work against him.

Williams hasn't allowed a run in 7 1/3 innings over seven appearances. He's given up six hits and struck out five.

With manager Lee Mazzilli intent on taking 12 pitchers to Baltimore, there's room for an extra reliever. But is there room for Williams?

Unless the Orioles make a trade, put someone on the disabled list or release nonroster reliever Jay Witasick, Williams will find the odds stacked against him like the boxes that are being transported to Camden Yards this week.

"I'll be honest with you, I haven't even checked who's left," he said. "I basically want to get ready for the season. Hopefully it works out. I'm not going to sit here and worry about it. That's the worst thing you can do."

Williams is out of minor league options, so he'd have to clear waivers before being sent down.

"Every year at this time, you're usually looking over your shoulder, but I honestly haven't thought about that this year," he said. "I felt like I did what they needed me to do last year. But I definitely didn't come in and feel like I had a job to lose. I never have that attitude."

Williams wasn't immune to the flu bug that took down at least seven players, but his problems were compounded by a sinus infection that caused him to miss almost a week.

"You can kind of fight the flu," he said, "but I didn't get any sleep because I couldn't find a position where my head wasn't killing me."

Rotation switch

The Nos. 2 and 3 starters in the rotation have been switched, with Daniel Cabrera starting the second game on April 6 and left-hander Erik Bedard pitching the following night.

Cabrera wasn't told of his placement in the rotation until after yesterday's game.

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