Hill, 2 Other O's File For Free Agency

November 04, 2009|By Dan Connolly | Dan Connolly,Dan.connolly@baltsun.com

Three 2009 Orioles have decided to refuse an outright assignment to Triple-A Norfolk and have chosen to file for free agency.

Pitcher Rich Hill, outfielder Jeff Fiorentino and catcher Guillermo Rodriguez have filed their paperwork with Major League Baseball and have informed the Orioles that they will become free agents.

Right-hander Alfredo Simon, who started two games in April before having elbow-ligament replacement surgery, accepted his assignment to Norfolk.

All four were taken off the club's 40-man roster last week.

Simon wanted to stay with the Orioles as he rehabilitates from surgery, his representative, Phil Isaac, wrote in an e-mail.

"Alfredo is a great fit for this organization, whose emphasis seems to be on building with young pitching," Isaac wrote. "He has a great arm and is willing to prove that in order to earn a spot in 2010."

Despite refusing their assignments, Hill, Fiorentino and Rodriguez could re-sign minor league deals with the Orioles later this offseason. The filing, however, allows them to talk with other organizations.

"We respect their decisions and thank them all for their contributions to the Orioles this year," said Matt Klentak, the club's director of baseball operations.

Hill, a 29-year-old left-hander who was 3-3 with a 7.80 ERA in 57 2/3 innings before being shut down in late July because of shoulder inflammation, is the most likely to return.

The Orioles acquired Hill last year from the Chicago Cubs for cash because they liked his upside. He showed flashes but also battled injuries and wildness and struggled for much of the season. Because he was eligible for arbitration, the Orioles removed him from the 40-man roster but haven't eliminated him from their plans.

"If Rich has interest in returning to the organization," Klentak said, "we would welcome him back in 2010."

Fiorentino, 26, batted .281 with eight RBIs in 24 games with the Orioles this year. A third-round pick of the team in 2004, he was first taken off the 40-man roster by the Orioles in January 2008 and was claimed off waivers by the Cincinnati Reds.

The Orioles reclaimed him from the Oakland Athletics in June 2008, and he made it back to Baltimore this season, after three years away from the big league club. Because he can play all three outfield positions, Fiorentino could land on another team's 40-man roster or might pursue an opportunity to play overseas.

Rodriguez, 31, was hitless in five at-bats for the Orioles in 2009. He spent most of the season at Double-A Bowie and also played 18 games at Triple-A Norfolk, batting a combined .244 at the two levels. If he returns, he would serve as a minor league reserve.

The Orioles are continuing the process of roster management.

Within the next week, outfielder Adam Jones and pitchers Koji Uehara and Brad Bergesen will be transferred from the 60-day disabled list back to the 40-man roster.

The day after the World Series ends, pending free agents have 15 days to declare for free agency, and four Orioles are expected to do so: third baseman Melvin Mora, catcher Chad Moeller and pitchers Danys Baez and Mark Hendrickson.

Once they declare, each can be removed from the 40-man roster (but then must be added again if he re-signs).

Given those moves, the Orioles would have 33 players on their 40-man roster before adding any minor leaguers who would be eligible for the annual Rule 5 draft.

Those who are expected to be placed on the big league roster include first baseman Brandon Snyder, third baseman Josh Bell and pitcher Brandon Erbe (McDonogh). Others who must be added or would be exposed to the Rule 5 draft on Dec. 10 include pitchers Steve Johnson (St. Paul's), Luis Lebron, Jim Hoey and Pedro Beato and infielders Pedro Florimon, Ryan Adams, Blake Davis and Rhyne Hughes.

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