Relaxed Gomez can focus on season Worthington trade keeps him 1st at 3rd

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Third baseman Leo Gomez can relax and enjoy spring training for a change, thanks to the recent trade that sent Craig Worthington to the San Diego Padres.

"I'm a little more relaxed," Gomez said, "but I'm still going to work very hard. I need to work hard to get in shape and get ready for the season."


Gomez came to spring training a year ago hoping to unseat Worthington at third. He had an outstanding spring and made the Opening Day roster, but it wasn't until Worthington went down with a severe hamstring injury that he got a chance to establish himself as an everyday player.

He took full advantage, leading major-league rookies with 16 home runs and laying first claim to the full-time job this year. But, the position still would have been open to contention if Worthington had come to spring training with the Orioles.


"I think it's better for both of us this way," Gomez said. "He's a very good baseball player, and I think I am a very good baseball player, but somebody has to play. I'm just glad they kept me because I want to stay in Baltimore."

It was the obvious choice. Manager John Oates watched Gomez grow into the job last year. He insisted during the winter that Worthington would get every opportunity to win it back, but he didn't relish the thought of choosing between them.

Instead, he encouraged the front office to make that choice before the opening of training camp. The Orioles decided to go with Gomez and deal Worthington for pitching prospect Jim Lewis and minor-league outfielder Steve Martin.

AIDS awareness meeting

Sarasota County health officials joined with Lem Burnham, director of the Orioles Employee Assistance Program, to present a one-hour seminar on the major health issues facing players.

The bulk of the time was devoted to AIDS awareness, though the dangers of smoking and smokeless tobacco also were discussed. The Orioles and many other clubs give similar presentations each year, but this year's drew a much more receptive audience. No doubt, that had something to do with the recent revelation that basketball star Magic Johnson had contracted HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS, through heterosexual sex.

"I would say it was a very attentive group," Oates said. "It's the first time I've been at a meeting such as that where there were some questions asked.

"Sooner or later, somebody has to address it. It doesn't just happen to somebody that lives on the other side of town. It can happen to you."


Poole could be out longer

Left-hander Jim Poole could be sidelined for as much as a week with tendinitis in his left shoulder.

The Orioles reported Thursday that Poole would be lost for a few days, but the timetable was revised yesterday. He probably will not pick up a ball again until late next week.

"It's just something new to make this year more interesting," Poole said. "It should be about four or five days. It's just tendinitis. I have no reason to think that it will be anything worse than that."

Player rep

Right-hander Storm Davis was elected the club's union representative and already is performing the clerical duties associated with the position.


It is a thankless job, but somebody has to do it. Davis was the Orioles player rep before he was traded to the Padres in 1986.

Bell, Mercedes due in today

Second baseman Juan Bell and outfielder Luis Mercedes are scheduled to arrive in camp today. Bell remained in the Dominican Republic to attend his sister's wedding, which was ++ Wednesday. Mercedes apparently has had visa problems.

Technically, neither is required to show up before Wednesday, but it probably would be a good idea to get into camp, because both are expected to compete for major-league jobs.