Perhaps Gomez is right: Two is too many at third

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Baltimore Orioles rookie Leo Gomez would like to set the record straight. Despite what you might have read, he does not want to be traded, and he isn't trying to run Craig Worthington out of town.

Gomez was quoted during the off-season saying that there isn't room in the organization for the both of them, but Gomez arrived in spring-training camp the picture of humility. He is, after all, the new kid on the block, even if he also is the best young hitter in the Orioles system.

"Craig is a good player," Gomez said. "I never said that he wasn't. I'm happy that the Baltimore Orioles have two good players at third base."

The play-me-or-trade-me story published a few weeks ago in USA Today did not misrepresent his burning desire to play in the major leagues, but he said he was not happy with the backlash that resulted from it. Gomez says now that he didn't mean it quite the way it sounded, and looks forward to competing for a place in the starting lineup.

"I'm ready to play in the big leagues, and I want a chance," Gomez said. "When that will come, I don't know. But this is what I've wanted to do all my life."

He never might have a better chance to crack the Orioles lineupThe job is Worthington's to lose, but he could lose it if he doesn't rebound from a dismal 1990 season. Gomez is coming off a tremendous performance with the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings last year (.277, 26 homers, 97 RBI), and followed it up with a big season in the Dominican Winter League.

The only thing standing in his way is his glove, which looked anything but gold when he made his major-league debut last September. In his first two games, he made four errors and misjudged a couple of pop-ups, but the Orioles feel he is capable of playing adequate major-league defense.

"I'm happy now with my defense," said Gomez. "I've been working hard at it. When I came up last year, I was a little bit nervous. I had never played with 30,000 people in the stands before. It gets easier the more you play."

But first things first. Gomez may have said he doesn't want to run Worthington out of town, but that's essentially what he'll have to do to win a full-time job.

He was right the first time. There isn't room on this team for both of them.

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The Toronto Blue Jays have made much of their revamped roster, no doubt hoping that a better clubhouse chemistry translates into a successful run at the division title. But if there is strength in numbers, the Jays could be in serious trouble. The four front-line players they lost during the winter -- George Bell, Tony Fernandez, Fred McGriff and Junior Felix -- combined for 974 total bases last year. The three everyday players they acquired -- Joe Carter, Devon White and Roberto Alomar -- combined for 623 total bases. Spread the difference over a season, and that's an average of more than two bases a game. Now, add in the 102 walks the Blue Jays lost in the shuffle, and Toronto could be in for a major run-production problem. Anyone for a Canadian club on the rocks?

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Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Ramon Martinez agreed to a contract yesterday, but while he held out, his agent had said they hoped to challenge the renewal clause in baseball's Basic Agreement. Martinez threatened to go to Japan if he didn't get his way, but the Japanese baseball leagues long have honored an informal agreement with Major League Baseball that prohibits them from signing a player who has not been released by his club.

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The Chicago White Sox wasted no time installing newly acquired Tim Raines in the leadoff spot, and Raines can't wait for the season to start. He has spent most of his career at the top of the order, but Montreal Expos manager Buck Rodgers decided three years ago to move him into the No. 3 spot. Raines hasn't been the same player since. "I think it's something I wish never happened," he told the Tampa Tribune. "Leadoff position is something I know and I know well. For seven years, I was on the All-Star team as a leadoff man, not as a No. 3 hitter. Now, I'm getting a chance to go back to something I'm more familiar with and utilize all my talents. Not just a guy they want to drive runs in, but a guy who can get on, steal bases and score runs."

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Surprise, surprise: Rickey Henderson was a no-show at the Oakland Athletics' first full-squad workout. He signed a four-year, $12 million contract last year, and has been trying to renegotiate it ever since. There apparently is no honor among base thieves.

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St. Louis Cardinals manager Joe Torre doesn't have any illusions about the upcoming season. The club lost two of its top offensive performers -- Vince Coleman and Terry Pendleton -- to free agency over the winter. It is rebuilding with young players and probably is in for a rough year. "I think we have to be judged -- as opposed to record -- on the progress we're making," Torre said. "Let's admit it, the only place worth finishing is first. I don't really care to tease people by finishing 'respectable' if it takes away from the development of the players. It's more important to bite the bullet and suffer a little with inexperience if you see down the road they will be part of a championship club."

In Your Heart, You Knew I Was Right Dept.: It was mentioned in this space last Sunday that Dwight Gooden's self-imposed contract deadline wasn't worth the acrimony it was printed on, but who would have thought he would reopen negotiations on that very day?

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The National League expansion tour took the expansion committee to three of the six eligible cities last week -- all of them in Florida. To read the newspaper accounts from each city, there will be three expansion teams awarded instead of two, and all of them will be in Florida. Expansion fever is running high in Tampa-St. Petersburg, Orlando and Miami, but it seems likely that only one of them -- probably Tampa-St. Petersburg -- will get a club. Denver, Washington and Buffalo, N.Y., are the other three candidates. Look for Denver to be the other NL site.

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Former Dodgers star Maury Wills is in camp at Vero Beach, but might be the only member of the over-40 crowd who isn't attempting a comeback. He is working with young players on base-stealing techniques and appears to have quite a coaching rapport. He might not have been a great manager with the Seattle Mariners, but the Dodgers youngsters have taken to him. "I don't know if the kids are aware who he is," Dodgers scout Steve Boros said. "Most don't know a lot about the '50s and '60s, but they are really responding to his approach."

Former Orioles pitcher Ken Dixon was seen strolling through Twin Lakes Park in street clothes Friday. He has tried out with the Philadelphia Phillies and the Cardinals and has two other tryouts scheduled. But Friday's visit was purely a social call. He did not ask for a tryout with the Orioles.

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Stupid injury of the spring: To former Orioles pitcher Mike Morgan, who showed up a week late at the Dodgers' spring-training facility with an injured hip. Morgan suffered the injury helping his mother move in Las Vegas. He was carrying a television set and tripped over a curb. The Dodgers were not pleased, especially after Morgan chose to get medical care in Las Vegas instead of coming to camp to be cared for by the club's well-respected medical staff. "With all the money out there," general manager Fred Claire said, "you'd think that he could pay someone to do that."

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