Perlozzo talks to Garciaparra


First baseman: Orioles an option for 2007



FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- About an hour and a half before his team's 6-3 victory over the Dodgers yesterday at Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo greeted Los Angeles first baseman Nomar Garciaparra behind the batting cage. The two exchanged kind words and went on their way.

Perlozzo had hoped to have the former Boston Red Sox star in an Orioles uniform this season. He called Garciaparra twice and tried to recruit the free agent to Baltimore. However, the lure of playing on the West Coast, where he is from, was too much, and Garciaparra decided to sign a one-year, $6 million deal plus $4 million in incentives with the Dodgers.

The Orioles made their pitch and planned to move Garciaparra, a shortstop by trade, to either left field or first base. However, they were informed that Garciaparra was getting a more lucrative offer elsewhere.

"He was great," Garciaparra said of Perlozzo. "I'll tell you what, he was classy, he was wonderful. I appreciated it. He was great the whole way. We had some serious talks, some great talks. I know what he's about from playing against him as a coach over there. Once talking to him more, those guys definitely have a great manager over there."

Garciaparra, who was 0-for-3 yesterday, said he'll definitely consider the Orioles if he is a free agent next season.

"I've always respected the Orioles' organization," said Garciaparra, who acknowledged that the Orioles made his decision difficult. "I always liked going to Baltimore and Camden Yards. I think it's just a beautiful place, one of the most beautiful places in baseball and I love the city. I think they have great fans there."

Hidalgo takes leave

Orioles outfielder Richard Hidalgo, who was signed to a minor league contract last week, was excused from the team for personal reasons. Hidalgo still doesn't have an at-bat this exhibition season and team officials aren't sure when he is going to return.

"I think his wife was ill," Perlozzo said. "He was going to take some time. We're going to keep checking on him."

Perlozzo said he is still confident he'll be able to get Hidalgo enough at-bats this spring to determine whether he is going to make the team.

"The situation we are in with all our guys being gone, we can get him in," Perlozzo said. "We can shoot him in four, five, six days in a row and we'll get some kind of idea."

Benson ready

Orioles starting pitcher Kris Benson sat alone at his locker in the clubhouse yesterday, ample space both to the left and right of him. With Daniel Cabrera leaving for the World Baseball Classic after yesterday's start, Benson remains the only projected member of the rotation still in camp.

Benson also remains the only one who has yet to pitch, but that will change today when he gets the start against the Washington Nationals in Viera. Benson said he is eager to get it going and try out his new complement of pitches. After relying on two pitches last year, Benson, with the help of new pitching coach Leo Mazzone, has added a curveball and cut fastball to his repertoire, and he also has altered his changeup.

"It's going great, but the true test is the next couple of weeks," Benson said. "I am slowly trying to bring in the two new pitches, and I think I have a changeup that is 10 times better than what I was throwing last season. I am really pleased and confident with the ammunition that I can throw out this year."

Around the horn

Todd Williams, who hasn't pitched since experiencing right shoulder soreness three weeks ago, played catch yesterday and could throw off the mound later this week. ... Top prospect Nick Markakis played center field yesterday and has now played all three outfield positions during the exhibition season. ... Benson, Cory Morris, Tim Byrdak, Franklyn Gracesqui, Andy Mitchell and Marino Salas are scheduled to pitch today against the Nationals.

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