Zaun agrees to terms, is expected to be starter

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

January 16, 2009|By Dan Connolly | Dan Connolly,dan.connolly@baltsun.com

The Orioles have filled their open starting catcher spot, agreeing with former Oriole Gregg Zaun on a one-year, $1.5 million deal.

The contract includes a team option for 2010 that would pay Zaun $2 million if picked up or $500,000 if bought out. The deal is pending a physical, which is tentatively planned for Tuesday.

Zaun, 37, likely would begin the season as the Orioles' starting catcher and eventually work as a mentor to the club's top prospect, Matt Wieters.

"We expect him to do a lion's share of the catching, and we'll see how the season progresses," club president Andy MacPhail said.

Zaun was a 17th-round draft pick of the Orioles in 1989 and made his big league debut with the club in 1995 before being traded to the Florida Marlins in 1996. He is the nephew of former Oriole and MASN broadcaster Rick Dempsey.

A good handler of pitchers and an outspoken voice in the clubhouse, he is a career .251 hitter in 14 big league seasons. He batted .237 with six homers in 86 games for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2008.

The Orioles needed an experienced catcher after dealing Ramon Hernandez to the Cincinnati Reds.

Another veteran, such as Chad Moeller, Robby Hammock or Guillermo Quiroz, could serve as Zaun's backup if Wieters begins 2009 in the minors, which is the current plan.

O's offer spring invitations

The Orioles have invited 23 nonroster players to spring training, including some of their top prospects not yet on the 40-man roster: Wieters, pitcher Chris Tillman and infielder Brandon Snyder.

The list features eight pitchers, including four with previous major league experience: left-hander Alberto Castillo and right-handers Brad Hennessey, Scott Chiasson and Ross Wolf.

The 15 invited position players include former Orioles infielder Chris Gomez, veteran utilityman Jolbert Cabrera, infielder Donnie Murphy, outfielder Justin Christian and first baseman Craig Brazell.

Single-game ticket sales

Single-game tickets for Orioles 2009 home games will go on sale tomorrow at 10 a.m.

Tickets can be purchased online at www.orioles.com, via phone at 888-848-BIRD or in person at the box office at Camden Yards or at the Orioles' team store in York, Pa.

Arbitration filings

MLB.com reported last night that Orioles outfielders Nick Markakis and Luke Scott and reliever George Sherrill were among the 111 major league players who filed for salary arbitration yesterday, an annual ritual that gives many of them large pay increases.

Baltimore Sun reporter Jeff Zrebiec contributed to this article.

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