Baltimore Sun

Screech speaks

Favorite headline of the day: "Husband, Wife Discover They're Twins"

I've heard people say that married couples start to look alike after awhile, but this is ridiculous.


In an unrelated story, Johan Santana woke up this morning and discovered he's still a Twin.

What are the chances that Santana and Erik Bedard stay with their original teams and we all feel like suckers?


I read yesterday that Courtney Love criticized Britney Spears' mothering skills. "When I had my daughter," Love said, "I stayed home with her almost every night for the first year of her life."

That's like Tony Batista saying you have no range at third base.

Don't feel too sorry for former Orioles outfielder Jeff Fiorentino. When I reached him on his cell phone yesterday, he was in Boca Raton, Fla., in 83-degree weather, preparing to join the Cincinnati Reds for spring training as part of their 40-man roster.

We should all be so lucky.

Fiorentino, 24, works out daily and is looking forward to getting a fresh start with the Reds, but he remains disappointed – and I'd say a little hurt - that the Orioles designated him for assignment. He lives in the Fort Lauderdale area, so spring training was home to him. The Orioles drafted him in the third round in 2004, making him their highest pick after Wade Townsend stayed at Rice University. (They forfeited their second-round pick after signing Miguel Tejada as a free agent). This has been the only organization he knows, the one that brought him to the majors unexpectedly in 2005, the one he never wanted to leave.

"I really didn't know what was going to happen to me," he said. "I've only been in this game three years and I didn't think I had too bad of a season."

Fiorentino noted how he hit .282 with 15 "bombs" at Double- A Bowie, "and I consider myself more of a defensive player than an offensive one," he said.

"I thought they would keep me on the 40-man roster," he said. "If the Orioles didn't want me, and they saw me play in the big leagues, I didn't know if another team out there would want me. But my agent (Jim Munsey) called and said, 'There are 29 other teams out there. Somebody will want you.' And I got a call from the Reds two days later.


"You always have it in the back of your head that, at any second, you can be taken off the 40-man and pretty much have to start over. But after they made a bunch of cuts, I thought I was going to be OK and I was ready to head to spring training. I was caught a little off guard, especially because the guy they picked up (Chris Roberson) is 28 years old. But I'm down here now, I'm practicing – throwing, hitting - it's 83 degrees. If I'm not in shape, that's my fault."

Fiorentino said he has "mixed emotions" about joining the Reds. He was happy with the Orioles and wanted another opportunity to play for them after spending 2007 in the Eastern League.
"But if my opportunity is here, then I'm hoping this is where my career will keep going," he said. "They have some new people on their staff, a new manager in Dusty Baker. It's a good opportunity to show new people my face and hope I leave a lasting impression."

Fiorentino had his typical slow start last year, batting .160 in April and .301 after May 1. "I did so bad in April, I dug myself a hole," he said. "Maybe I've got to move up north and figure out how to hit when it's 35 degrees. I get frostbite. It's happened two years in a row and it's killing me. If I figure it out, I'll be all right."
The Orioles shocked Fiorentino, and many observers, by purchasing his contract from Single-A Frederick in May 2005 and keeping him for three weeks. He was the first position player from the '04 draft to reach the majors and went 6-for-10 before falling into a 5-for-34 slump. Fiorentino batted .313 with five homers in his first 28 games with the Keys, but hit .225 in the first two months after being optioned on June 2.

There are people in the organization who are convinced that rushing Fiorentino to the majors hurt his development. He appeared in 19 games with the Orioles in 2006 after a September call-up, and almost seemed to be forgotten last year, with most of the attention centered on Bowie teammate and top outfielder prospect Nolan Reimold.

So would Fiorentino have been better served if he stayed in Frederick throughout the 2005 season?

Not according to the man nicknamed "Screech" by his Orioles teammates.


"When people say that, I think it's people who haven't been in the game," he said, the irritation in his voice evident. "If you're in this game, you have to be ridiculously mentally strong. You deal with failure and try to turn it around and make the best of it. Any hardships I dealt with made me stronger and a better ballplayer.

"I’m 24. I have better years ahead of me. You guys saw me play 32 (major league) games. My goals and plans are a lot more than 32 games. Hopefully, you guys will see the best of me. This is just motivation. I gave 110 percent when I played for you guys. I guess that wasn’t enough, so I’ve got to figure out how to give 120.

"I'm not done with this game yet."