Unhappy with role, Hidalgo released

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Lacking `everyday' spot, outfielder asks out to pursue Japan offers

Orioles notebook

March 08, 2006|By ROCH KUBATKO | ROCH KUBATKO,SUN REPORTER

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Four days in an Orioles uniform apparently were enough for outfielder Richard Hidalgo.

The Orioles released Hidalgo yesterday so he could pursue offers in Japan, ending a relationship that had a short shelf life. The expiration came as the Orioles were playing the Boston Red Sox in their sixth exhibition game.

Hidalgo signed a minor league contract on Feb. 26, but he left the team before Saturday's game in Jupiter, Fla., after learning that his wife was ill. He never returned, and the Orioles never spoke to him.

According to executive vice president Jim Duquette, Hidalgo had reservations about the way he'd be used by the Orioles if he made the 25-man roster. He also was frustrated that he couldn't secure a guaranteed deal.

"The way it was relayed to us through his agent was, he's not a guy who likes coming off the bench. He's a guy who wants to play every day. He didn't have the desire to keep playing if it wasn't going to be an everyday job. The best we could offer him, obviously, was a competition and a possible fourth or fifth outfield spot," Duquette said.

"It all started in his mind right after his wife went into the hospital. He started thinking about whether he really had the desire to keep going. We had him take a couple extra days just to make sure that was his final decision, and he never changed his mind."

After signing late, Hidalgo apparently didn't feel ready to compete for a job. He didn't play winter ball, and seemed reluctant to fully exert himself in workouts.

Duquette said he isn't upset over Hidalgo's preference to move on, and said the team didn't attempt to change his mind.

"It is what it is. It's not a major issue for us," Duquette said. "It was something where we were hopeful he'd be in the mix for the outfield competition, but it's working out fine the way things are going so far."

Jeff Conine and Kevin Millar, signed as free agents during the winter, can play left field. Nick Markakis, the seventh overall pick in the 2003 draft, has a shot at making the team despite playing only 33 games above Single-A.

Roberts progresses

Second baseman Brian Roberts swung at overhand tosses from hitting coach Terry Crowley on one of the back fields during Monday's early workout, and he could be ready for regular batting practice later this week.

Crowley's throws came from close range, and manager Sam Perlozzo said they weren't "extremely firm." But it was another positive step for Roberts as he tries to avoid starting the season on the disabled list.

Perlozzo is hopeful that Roberts, who had ligament reconstruction surgery on his left elbow Sept. 30, can take batting practice on Friday, separate from the team.

"We upped him [Monday] to overhand throwing on the field, enough to where he's got to turn on the ball a little bit more," Perlozzo said. "The trainers pretty much think it's more of a baseball issue now with us and not so much the injury. We're putting him on a program where we can start throwing some BP to him and let him react more to that, because the adrenaline is obviously going to flow a little bit more and you're going to have to turn a little quicker. We feel comfortable that he's not going to get hurt. It's more of a mental hurdle he needs to get over.

"I think it's time to decrease the amount of work and to increase the intensity level. A little less work but more intense, rather than swinging until he gets tired."

Warm Millar welcome

Returning to Fort Myers for the first time since leaving the Red Sox, Kevin Millar was given a warm greeting by fans at City of Palms Park, and a large group of Boston reporters staked out the visiting dugout before batting practice.

"Millar, get off the field. All the media's waiting for you," Conine yelled, as Millar stood near first base.

"Tell him to Cowboy Up," said one reporter, referring to Millar's popular catch phrase in 2004.

"I'm sick of that already," Conine replied, drawing huge laughs.

Millar received a bearhug from Red Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo before reaching the dugout steps. He went 1-for-2 with a run-scoring double in the first inning.

"The whole three years were awesome," Millar said. "It's the greatest time I've had in the game. But you have to turn the page. I'm a Baltimore Oriole, but it's still tough. This is the first time I've seen these guys. But it's a business."

roch.kubatko@baltsun.com

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