News Archives: March 1999

March 29

On Monday, as the last week of spring training got underway, the Orioles defeated the St. Louis Cardinals, 7-6. Doug Linton got the start and wasn't that impressive, but Doug Johns was hit the hardest, pitching 2 innings and giving up 4 runs. The defense was what really struggled, however, as they committed three errors and allowed 3 unearned runs. The offense came alive, getting ten hits and nine walks, although they again failed to hit a home run. They have hit just 18 home runs in 22 games (not including Cuba), with their leading HR hitters being Mike Bordick, Charles Johnson, Brady Anderson, and Willis Otanez, who all have three. (In contrast, Sammy Sosa has ten by himself.) In terms of the roster fights:

After the game, the Orioles made some roster moves. Julio Vinas, a non-roster backup catcher, was sent to minor league camp, and was somewhat annoyed with the Orioles about the timing. Jerry Hairston was demoted to AAA, as was Lyle Mouton. Combined with the bigger news, that Danny Clyburn was traded to the Devil Rays, that leaves the Orioles with no backup outfielders. They had planned to carry just Rich Amaral, but Amaral, like so many Orioles, is hurting, which leaves .190-hitting minor league journeyman Mike Murphy as the only other outfielder in camp with the Os.

For our perspective on the trade, see Bricks from the Warehouse.

The Orioles have also indicated that Jesse Garcia may have won the backup infielder job until DeShields is healthy. In addition, the Orioles may come north with "only" eleven pitchers, at least for a week. They won't need a fifth starter until then, and Scott Kamieniecki is likely to start the year on the DL. (If he's not ready by April 11th, then Doug Linton will probably be his replacement.) This decision will allow them to postpone the decision about whether to keep Chris Hoiles or Willis Otanez for another week, which just shows the state of the organization.

A brief note about a few ex-Orioles: Xavier Hernandez, whose contract with the Orioles was voided after he failed his physical, prompting him to blast the Orioles and file a grievance, was released by the Houston Astros today. Allegedly, "health was not a factor," according to Houston's GM. In addition, Jerome Walton and Trovin Valdez were released by the Yankees and the Expos, respectively, while Mike Oquist and Jack Voigt were sent to the minors by the As and Giants, respectively. (Trovin Valdez was a minor league outfielder traded along with Curtis Goodwin to the Reds for David Wells.)

March 28

The big news from Sunday, of course, is something you'd have to be blind and deaf, or living in the Unabomber's shack in Montana, not to already know: the Orioles travelled to Havana to play an all-star team, of sorts, of Cuban baseball players, the first game between MLB ballplayers and a Cuban national team in forty years. The Orioles won 3-2 in 11 innings when Harold Baines singled up the middle to drive in the winning run. There were few highlights from the game, as the Orioles managed just six hits in the eleven innings, but since Cuba's offense was similarly lacking, it's difficult to determine how much of the lackluster offense was due to poor hitting, how much to good pitching, and how much to the soft Cuban baseballs being used. Neverthless, there were a few facts of note:

On the other hand, as noted, the offense (other than Johnson) struggled, including Albert Belle failing to get the ball out of the infield in five at-bats, while Mike Bordick and Jeff Reboulet were both thrown out stealing. And the Orioles got extremely lucky that the overly aggressive Cubans ran themselves out of a potential big inning early, as Albert Belle threw out at second a batter trying to stretch a single while a baserunner stood at third, and then this runner was later thrown out at the plate trying to score on an infield grounder. All-in-all, the Orioles barely managed to avoid an embarrassing loss.

For our perspective on the situation, see our first installment of Bricks from the Warehouse.

In more somber news, there was a public viewing for Cal Ripken Sr. at the Tarring-Cargo Funeral Home, 333 South Parke St. in Aberdeen. Another is scheduled for Monday, from 2-4 PM and 7-9 PM. The funeral, which will be private, is scheduled for Tuesday. As previously noted, the Ripkens have requested that instead of flowers, donations in his memory be made to: Boys and Girls Club of Harford County, 100 East Bel Air Avenue, Aberdeen, Md. 21001, (410) 272-8233; Maryland Special Olympics, 8300 Guilford Road, Suite A, Columbia, Md. 21046, (410) 290-7611; The Ripken Museum, P.O. Box 8, Aberdeen, Md.21001, (410) 273-2525; Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, 2330 W. Joppa Road, Suite 333, Lutherville, Md. 21093.

March 27

On Saturday, before going to Cuba, the Orioles played one last "normal" exhibition game, beating the Mets 4-3. Juan Guzman pitched solid ball for five innings, although the Orioles' offense continued to struggle, as they amassed just seven hits, including no home runs. Roster fight update:

After the game, Ricky Otero was sent to the minor league camp, while one of the Os few remaining prospects, Danny Clyburn was optioned to Rochester. The move left just a handful of remaining questions to be decided in the last week of the spring.

March 26

After an off day, the Orioles played the Dodgers on Friday, losing 7-2 in a game delayed a long time by rain. Because of the rain delay, unfortunately, Mike Mussina did not get a chance to build up his innings, an important goal at this time of the spring. Neither the pitching nor the offense were anything to write home about, as the Os managed just 4 hits (including Brady Anderson's 3rd homer of the spring), while the pitching allowed 9 hits and 3 walks in just 7 innings. In terms of the players on the bubble:

The major story surrounding the Orioles is now the Cuba game. Hopefully, it won't be too much of a distraction for the Orioles, who are supposed to be getting ready for the regular season. The game's still controversial, but Angelos insists he has no ulterior motives.

As everyone knows by now, Cal Ripken Sr. has passed away. The Ripkens have asked for privacy for his Tuesday memorial service, but have announced that a public viewing will be held on Sunday and Monday at the Tarring-Cargo Funeral Home, 333 South Parke St. in Aberdeen. They have requested that instead of flowers, donations in his memory be made to: Boys and Girls Club of Harford County, 100 East Bel Air Avenue, Aberdeen, Md. 21001, (410) 272-8233; Maryland Special Olympics, 8300 Guilford Road, Suite A, Columbia, Md. 21046, (410) 290-7611; The Ripken Museum, P.O. Box 8, Aberdeen, Md.21001, (410) 273-2525; Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, 2330 W. Joppa Road, Suite 333, Lutherville, Md. 21093.

The Baltimore Sun's Ken Rosenthal and the Washington Post's Thomas Boswell both provide tributes to Ripken.

March 25

The inevitable happened on Thursday: Cal Ripken Sr. passed away. He died at 4:15 P.M. Thursday afternoon at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The news was expected when Cal Ripken Jr. suddenly left the club on Tuesday to be with him. Read more about it.

Cal's absence from camp means that he will not be travelling with the team on their exhibition to Cuba which takes place this Sunday. The Orioles are treating this as a regular season rather than exhibition game, using their major league starting lineup with the exception of Ripken. The game, which was already controversial due to the human rights situationin Cuban, became even more so as the Cuban government announced that only favored Cuban citizens will be invited to the game. But Peter Angelos continues to defend his decision in spite of criticism from Cuban-American politicians.

B.J. Surhoff, who acted as the players' representative in negotiations over this Cuba game, will be conducting an online chat on Friday evening at 8 PM through and the Major League Baseball Players Association. Questions can be submitted in advance, so feel free to send them off to him now.

March 24

The Orioles beat the Mets 5-4 in 10 innings on Wednesday. After a strong previous outing, Sidney Ponson struggled this time, giving up 4 hits, 2 walks, and 4 runs in four innings of work. Doug Linton, Arthur Rhodes, and Heathcliff Slocumb, on the other hand, combined for six scoreless innings of one-hit relief. Meanwhile, offensively the Orioles piled up 16 hits and stole five bases, including Harold Baines second of the spring! Mike Bordick again had a multihit game. On the roster fights:

Meanwhile, in the next round of roster cuts, non-roster invitee Terry Burrows was sent to the minor league camp, while Rocky Coppinger and Gabe Molina were optioned to Rochester. Coppinger was clearly upset by Ray Miller's refusal to consider him for a job, a decision made even more disturbing by the fact that the leading candidate to temporarily replace Scott Kamieniecki is 34-year old journeyman Doug Linton, who has had a good spring but has never had any success at all.

March 23

Big news coming out of camp is that Cal Ripken has left the team -- and will miss the Cuba game -- to be with his seriously ill father, who was diagnosed with cancer last year. His father, who of course was a long time Oriole employee as a minor league player, manager and caoch, and who managed the team from 1987-1988, must have taken a turn for the worse to prompt Cal Jr. to leave camp. All fans everywhere wish him the best.

The Orioles beat the Expos 7-3, behind a strong outing by Juan Guzman (5 innings, 3 hits, 1 run, 1 walk, and 1 strikeout). This is the stage of spring training where starters try to extend themselves, to build up arm strength so they can pitch deeper into games, so this is a promising sign. Ricky Bones, Mike Fetters, and Mike Timlin combined for 3 scoreless innings of one-hit relief, and only Gabe Molina, who was never in the Os 1999 plans, struggled. Mike Bordick and Will Clark continued their hot hitting, almost ensuring that Bordick will be Ray Miller's #2 man in the lineup. As for the job fight, the daily roster watch update:

Meanwhile, injuries continue to pile up. Despite what the Orioles reported, our skepticism has proven accurate -- 35-year old Scott Kamieniecki will not be ready to start the season. Moreover, 37-year old Rich Amaral, 35-year old Jeff Reboulet, and 34-year old Chris Hoiles are all among the wounded, with Hoiles the only one able to play at all. But Hoiles, the only one of the three who can hit, seems to be most in danger of losing his job. Miller continues to decry the lack of flexibility caused by these injuries, while blindly ignoring the fact that it's his oversized bullpen more than anything else which impairs his flexibility.

March 22

On Monday, starter Scott Erickson got pounded by St. Louis as the Os dropped their game, 12-3. Erickson gave up 8 hits, 3 walks, and 9 runs in 3 1/3 innings, and the Orioles managed just 3 hits. Obviously, these games matter little to most Os, who are assured of jobs. Of the players still hoping for a roster spot:

The Orioles have apparently given up on trading for a starting pitcher; their spin is that they're happy with the rotation and that there's nobody better out there, but what's more likely is that the Os don't have what other teams want. Lenny Webster thinks other teams might want him, and he hopes to be traded somewhere that he could start. The problem? Even assuming he's right, the Orioles don't have anybody to replace him as backup catcher.

As Sunday's controversial Orioles game versus Cuba draws closer, ESPN has announced that it will broadcast the game nationally, starting at 12 noon. Cuba has named its roster for the game, while Peter Angelos now is trying to bring underprivileged children to watch the game.

March 21

In Sunday's game, the Orioles won 6-4 over the Twins despite a shaky performance from Mike Mussina, with solid relief pitching (4 shutout innings by Mike Timlin, Ricky Bones, and Arthur Rhodes). The Orioles had a breakdown defensively, with Willis Otanez making a couple of errors and Lenny Webster and Albert Belle also making poor plays. The offense, despite Ray Miller's professed interest in speed, continued to consist of home runs, as Mike Bordick and Willis Otanez hit their team-leading third homers of the spring, and Brady Anderson blasted a three-run shot.

The first phase of spring training -- the phase when all sorts of players get to see some action -- has ended, as most of the people who have no shot to make the major league club (including hot prospects like Pickering, Minor, McDonald and Werth, and spare parts like Radhames Dykhoff, Carlos Casimiro, and Eugene Kingsale) have been sent to the minors. Now it's time for players to win jobs or lose them, for the team to finalize those last spots in the bullpen and on the bench. Fights include

Meanwhile, we have to wonder how long it will take before Ray Miller blames injuries for his failures this year, as (predictably) 35-year old Jeff Reboulet is already hurt and could join 30-year old Delino DeShields on the disabled list. 37-year old Rich Amaral is also hurting, as is 35-year old Scott Kamieniecki, although the Orioles claim not to be worried about Kamienicki.

March 20

The Orioles have made a lot of changes the offseason, but were these changes brilliant moves, or merely rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic that was the 79-83 Orioles? Over the next few weeks, while keeping you up-to-date on the happenings in Florida, we will be providing you with our thoughts and comments on these organizational moves.

With little suspense, the Orioles made their second round of roster moves on Wednesday, sending Ryan Minor, Cal Pickering, Tim DeCinces and Chris Fussell to Rochester. These moves apparently leave Willis Otanez as the only minor leaguer still in the running for a major league roster slot.

© 1998 The Orioles Warehouse
As seen on TV.
Last Updated: March 30, 1999
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