Catcher Chavez added to mix


Veteran known for defensive work claimed off waivers as `attractive option'

Orioles notebook


The Orioles claimed veteran catcher Raul Chavez off waivers yesterday, adding an unexpected twist to the club's late-spring roster machinations.

Chavez, 33, batted .172 in 37 games for the Astros last season. He's never hit well in the majors and is known more for his defense.

He will be on the team's 40-man roster, but he isn't a sure thing to make the Opening Day roster, said manager Sam Perlozzo.

"I understand he's a good catch-and-throw guy," Perlozzo said. "That just gives us an option if we choose to do that."

Ramon Hernandez will start the majority of games at catcher, and Javy Lopez is expected to split games between catcher, first base and designated hitter. The club cut Geronimo Gil last week, eliminating its incumbent third catcher.

Lopez doesn't have the best defensive reputation, so Chavez might stick as a late-inning replacement. He is expected to be with the team today.

"I'm a believer that late in a game, you want ... the best receiver possible, who can throw and help you shut down the running game and call a good game at a critical point in time," Perlozzo said. "It gives us an attractive option."

If Chavez makes the team, Perlozzo said, he would probably displace an outfielder. Only Jay Gibbons is a sure thing to start in the outfield Monday against Tampa Bay.

Luis Matos, Corey Patterson, Jeff Conine, Kevin Millar and Nick Markakis are all candidates to occupy the other spots, and David Newhan also plays outfield.

"We've got an abundance out there, really," said Perlozzo, adding he wouldn't be surprised to see another move before Opening Day (Matos has been the subject of trade rumors all spring).

"I'm sure that there's more going to happen in the next day or so," he said. "It's kind of a wait-and-see situation to see if something don't pop up that makes sense for us."

Markakis has played himself into strong contention for a starting job, but he might also be the most likely to be sent down because he's never played above Double-A.

Gibbons returns

Gibbons returned to the lineup last night after sitting out three games with a sore back.

He said the discomfort is a recurrence of a problem he's had for 10 years. He went to a chiropractor yesterday.

"It's feeling a lot better," he said before the game. "It was really out of whack."

Gibbons feels ready for Opening Day despite having missed spring games with a variety of nagging injuries. "Obviously, I would like to have had a few more at-bats," he said. "But that's why I'm in the lineup tonight."

He had an RBI single in the first last night.

Perlozzo sounded a little more wary when asked if his right fielder is ready.

"Confident? I'm sure hopeful that's the case," Perlozzo said. "Hopefully, he's going to be OK because he needs some at-bats."

Final decisions

In addition to the outfield, the club's bullpen remains unsettled. Perlozzo said he'll be watching closely to see who among John Halama, Sendy Rleal, Corey Morris and Eddy Rodriguez will fill the last two spots.

The hard-throwing Rleal has pitched best among the contenders this spring, and Halama's experience as a long man makes him appealing. But Perlozzo said he hasn't made up his mind.

"As well as it's an opportunity to play yourself on the team, it's also an opportunity to play yourself off the team," he said of the preseason games yesterday and today.

"I mean it's amazing that it comes down [to the last day], but this happens every year," the manager said.

Looking at Phillips

The Orioles have had some discussions with the Cleveland Indians about middle infielder Brandon Phillips, 24, who is out of options and has been told by the club he either will be traded or designated for assignment by this weekend.

According to The Plain Dealer of Cleveland, other teams interested in Phillips include the Washington Nationals, Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Colorado Rockies. In discussions with the Orioles, the Indians targeted pitching prospects. However, one industry source does not believe the Orioles will be Phillips' landing spot.

If the Orioles do trade for Phillips, he'd have to be placed on the big-league roster. The onetime Montreal Expos top prospect who struggled in Cleveland after being acquired as part of the Bartolo Colon deal would join Chris Gomez as a backup infielder.

Around the horn

Lopez and shortstop Miguel Tejada arrived more than hour after the rest of the team yesterday. The pair were stuck in traffic and called ahead, so they won't face discipline. ... All tickets to this afternoon's preseason game at Camden Yards will cost $10, and the proceeds will benefit Baltimore-area emergency feeding shelters.

Sun reporter Jeff Zrebiec contributed to this article.

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