Oates: Milligan too good to give away
Manager would OK only quality trade
SARASOTA, Fla. -- First baseman Randy Milligan has made it clear he would rather be traded than spend the season in a part-time role, but manager John Oates said yesterday that the club would not go out of its way to accommodate him.
"I'm not against trading Randy to give him an opportunity to play, but I am against giving Randy away," Oates said. "He's too good a player to give away just to appease Randy or lessen the burden on myself."
Milligan has been the subject of trade rumors the past four months, and the club seemed close to dealing him to the Montreal Expos before talks broke down in December. But the sense of urgency that characterized the club's off-season reconstruction efforts no longer is apparent.
The Orioles considered Milligan their most valuable asset in the search for pitching help, but they have acquired Rick Sutcliffe, Storm Davis, Dennis Rasmussen and a couple of minor-league prospects, removing some of the impetus for a Milligan trade.
"Things may have changed some," Oates said. "We may not need immediate help as much as we used to. We're not going to let someone back up the garbage truck and trade us three pitchers who aren't going to do anything for us."
He's not saying Milligan will not be traded, but it apparently is going to take someone attractive to make a deal work.
"I'm willing to give it a try this way," Oates said. "I know Randy would rather play somewhere else than sit on the bench here, but my job is to make the Baltimore Orioles the best team I can and Randy is a good player. You don't find good players like him every day." Oates says he is not concerned about the club's diminished third-base depth in the wake of the deal that sent Craig Worthington to the San Diego Padres.
"I'm very happy with Tim Hulett as the backup there," Oates said. "I really believe both of these people [Leo Gomez and Worthington] deserve to play on a regular basis.
"There are times when you have two players so equal that it becomes a problem. We didn't see where we could keep both of them at the major-league level, so we decided to see what we could get for one of them."
Outfielder Darrell Sherman, who was selected by the Orioles in the Rule V draft in December, has agreed to terms on a one-year contract, dropping the number of unsigned Orioles to 15.
Sherman has to make the team or be offered back to San Diego for half of the $50,000 draft price, but the Orioles still were responsible for negotiating his 1992 contract.
So the obvious question is this: If the club wanted to keep him but not in the major leagues, why not pay him far above the going rate to discourage the Padres from taking him back?
The rule-makers took that possibility into consideration.
"There is a rule that the drafting club has to pay everything over what the player made the year before," general manager Roland Hemond said.
The Orioles have settled their stickiest contract problems -- with one $30 million exception -- but many of the 15 unsigned players figure heavily in the team's plans.
Most prominent of those yet to reach agreement are pitchers Ben McDonald, Todd Frohwirth, Mike Mussina and Jim Poole; catcher Chris Hoiles; Gomez; outfielders Chito Martinez and Luis Mercedes; and first baseman/outfielder David Segui.
Players who are not eligible for arbitration or free agency and do not sign by March 11 are subject to renewal. Clubs can renew unsigned players at any salary figure the team chooses as long as it is at least 80 percent of the player's 1991 salary.
On the run
Oates' emphasis on base running even extends to the pitchers. During the first two days of workouts, the pitchers did their running on the base paths, rather than in the outfield, and new coach Davey Lopes began his individual instructions.
"Why not do it with everybody?" asked Oates. "If we're going to run, we might as well do it the way you would in a game. Besides, there could be times when I might use a pitcher as a pinch runner.
"Hopefully, this will be the basis to enable Davey to lay a foundation that will lead to more opportunistic base running. There's a lot more to it than just stealing bases."
Outfielder Dwight Evans is experiencing some stiffness in his left calf, and his activities during the first week of spring workouts have been reduced.
Outfielder Joe Orsulak reported for the second day of workouts and took part in some drills, though baseball rules permit only pitchers, catchers and players with special permission to take part in organized workouts. Orsulak did not have special permission.
& "So, sue me," he said.