SARASOTA, Fla. -- The Baltimore Orioles continue to express at least a passing interest in free-agent outfielder Candy Maldonado, who remains unsigned with just four days left before position players are required to report to spring training.
Orioles general manager Roland Hemond confirmed that he has spoken recently with Chuck Berry, who represents Maldonado, but says, "Nothing seems to be happening."
Maldonado is the most prominent name on baseball's unwanted list, even though he had 22 home runs and 95 RBI for the Cleveland Indians last year. He apparently priced himself out of the market early in the off-season but is believed to have lowered his expectations considerably over the past few weeks.
"I think Maldonado's people have been talking to everybody," Orioles president Larry Lucchino said. "They are talking to several clubs and we are one of them."
The Orioles have not settled their left-field situation, so signing Maldonado has to be considered a possibility. He has been saying all winter that he would like to sign with the Orioles and apparently was close to doing so before the club traded for first baseman Glenn Davis.
Manager Frank Robinson did not equivocate when asked if he would like to have the power-hitting left fielder in camp.
"Would I?" he said. "That's like asking if I would take a loaf of bread if I was starving to death. Sure I'd take him. You never have enough good players. He's a super individual."
* The Orioles opened spring workouts with 38 players in camp, but Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer was still en route from his home in the Baltimore area.
Palmer is scheduled to participate today in his first organized workout since the Orioles released him on May 23, 1984.
The only other member of the preseason pitching staff who was not in attendance was left-hander Brian DuBois, who is recovering from a major elbow operation and was sent instead to a rookie development seminar in Atlanta.
* The Orioles still hold out hope of finding a new partner for their Naples, Fla., spring training venture, but they are doomed to at least one more spring without a stadium.
"We're still trying to bring together the Naples deal after the departure of USF&G;," Lucchino said. "There are some local people in Naples who might want to participate as partners in the venture."
Though a facility can be built in about 10 months, Lucchino said there is no realistic possibility that a deal could be put together in time for the Orioles to train in Naples next year.
* Left-hander Jeff Ballard did not participate in the 12-minute run that traditionally opens training camp. He strained a calf muscle during workouts in Baltimore recently, and his activities will be restricted for a few days.
* The early-bird award went to Chris Hoiles and Bob Milacki, who were spotted in camp yesterday at 6:50 a.m.
* Designated hitter Sam Horn arrived in camp several days early and significantly thinner than the last time he was seen in an Orioles uniform. He wouldn't say how much weight he lost, but seems to be determined to protect his place on the roster.
Horn said he wasn't on a diet, he just ate healthier meals and played a lot of racquetball.
* Right-hander Ben McDonald also came to camp in excellent shape. He finished far ahead of the pack in the morning run, overtaking fellow No. 1 draft choice Mike Mussina in the final seconds.
* The Orioles have brought in special instructors Ed Napolean and Al Monchak to work with Juan Bell and Jeff McKnight at second base. The intent is to make both players more versatile. Bell, who is out of options, apparently will make the club as a utility player.
* Milacki said that he still occasionally feels soreness in the shoulder that hindered him last year, but he threw on the side yesterday and reported no problems.
* The club proudly announced that the Perth Heat captured the Australian League championship on Thursday night, defeating Queensland in a best three-of-five playoff. The team is managed by Rochester Red Wings coach Mike Young and includes three Orioles minor-leaguers -- Tim Holland, T.R. Lewis and Pat Leinen.