Orioles executives Mike Flanagan and Jim Duquette made their second goodwill trip this month as they flew to Atlanta yesterday to meet with displaced catcher Javy Lopez, whose role is murky after the offseason signing of Ramon Hernandez.
"It went well," said Flanagan, the team executive vice president who was also part of the Orioles' traveling party to the Dominican Republic, where team officials spent several hours with shortstop Miguel Tejada after the All-Star rescinded his trade demand. "It's been something we are trying to do more of, meet with players."
Lopez has never requested a trade, but his agent, Chuck Berry, has made it clear that Lopez, 35, is uncomfortable entering the final year of his contract at a new position, and a trade or a contract extension would be their preference. With Hernandez on the roster, the Orioles are planning on using Lopez at first base, designated hitter and backup catcher.
"We wanted to talk to him about [his role]," said Flanagan, who declined to discuss any specifics about the conversation, only saying that it was constructive. "We spent a couple of hours talking to him about the club and where we are going. It was a very productive conversation."
Berry did not return calls seeking comment, and Lopez has not responded to an interview request from The Sun. Berry and the Orioles have had preliminary discussions about a contract extension, but the two sides have not been able to close ground.
The Orioles have engaged in some trade talks about Lopez, but they haven't found a suitable market for him and they also are hesitant to remove his bat from the middle of their lineup.
2 minor league deals
The Orioles have verbally agreed to minor league deals with veteran relievers Vic Darensbourg and Jim Brower and invited them to spring training. The non-guaranteed contracts are still pending.
Darensbourg, 35, went 1-1 with a 2.82 ERA in 22 games with the Detroit Tigers last season. A 5-foot-10 left-hander, he has pitched parts of eight seasons in the majors. He is 8-17 lifetime with a 4.96 ERA in 303 innings, all in relief.
Right-handed Brower, 33, was 3-3 with a 5.37 ERA in 60 1/3 innings for the San Francisco Giants and Atlanta Braves.
Both will compete for bullpen jobs this spring.
Early birds allowed
Major League Baseball will allow spring training camps to open early so players can prepare for the inaugural World Baseball Classic, though Flanagan said yesterday that the club hasn't gotten any formal requests from players who are planning on arriving early.
However, Flanagan anticipates several pitchers reporting to the team's minor league facility in Sarasota, Fla., in the coming days, where coaches, including manager Sam Perlozzo and pitching coach Leo Mazzone, will monitor pitchers' progress.
Free-agent catcher Mike Piazza is reportedly nearing a decision as to which team he'll play for in 2006, but it apparently won't be the Orioles. The team hasn't had much discussion with Piazza because it feels it has players of similar abilities, including Lopez. firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com