Sarasota seen as a permanent possibility


SARASOTA, Fla. -- Orioles president Larry Lucchino said yesterday that the club will take a new look at the possibility of turning Twin Lakes Park into a permanent all-purpose spring training facility.

"We're going to ask Janet Marie Smith [Orioles vice president for planning and development] to examine the possible expansion of the Sarasota facility, while we examine other possibilities," Lucchino said.

Late Orioles owner Edward Bennett Williams envisioned an all-purpose facility in Sarasota, but the park that the Chicago White Sox had used since 1960 was replaced, ending EBW's interest in the project. Today the Orioles probably would have to pay for the facility themselves, but might be able to persuade Sarasota County to pay for construction of access roads and parking facilities.

The Orioles were close to an agreement on a new facility in nearby Naples a couple of years ago, but the deal was scuttled when a local tax to pay for the project was struck down in court. The most recent serious overture came from Daytona Beach, but club officials said the area was too far removed from other spring training camps.

There also have been offers from Arizona, but the Orioles are reluctant to move spring training out of Florida.

"The people in Arizona are pretty aggressive about luring teams," Lucchino said, "but when you're in our position, you can't rule anything out."

The club has been reluctant to build its own facility, but may be softening on that position. The actual cost has not been determined, but a 5,000-seat stadium probably would cost about $5 million.

Sutcliffe to start on Friday

Manager Johnny Oates said yesterday that right-hander Rick Sutcliffe probably will be the starter for Friday's exhibition opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates at McKechnie Field in Bradenton. Sutcliffe will be one of five pitchers to throw in that game. The rotation for the rest of the weekend probably will be announced today.

Oates is not likely to name an Opening Day starter until the final week of spring training, but the fact he is starting Sutcliffe in the first intrasquad game Wednesday and the first exhibition game could be a strong indication he will get his second straight Opening Day assignment.

Owners meeting

Lucchino will leave today to take part in the quarterly owners meeting in Phoenix, but he said he doesn't expect there to be any major news developments there.

The owners will get updates on the labor situation, the marketing survey on fans' reaction to the possibility of an extra round of playoffs and realignment of teams into a third division in each league. But it seems unlikely that anything definitive will be announced on any of those fronts.

When the flu strikes

The Orioles have been struck by a minor flu outbreak. There were a handful of players seeking medical treatment for symptoms yesterday, but not enough to seriously disrupt the day's on-field activities.

Media briefing

The Orioles' public relations and community relations departments met with the club's minor-league invitees yesterday for a brief seminar on dealing with the media.

The players were shown a nine-minute film put out by the NFL and lectured by veteran players Sutcliffe and Harold Reynolds on how to interact with the print and broadcast reporters who cover the team.

Public relations director Rick Vaughn said the team probably will produce a video on the subject in time for spring training next year.

Chito at first?

Right fielder Chito Martinez brought a first baseman's glove to camp -- as per his manager's instructions -- but he has not had occasion to use it yet.

Oates indicated that Martinez will work out at first base some this spring, just in case he is needed there in an emergency this season.

"It's no big deal," Martinez said. "I played first every day for two months at Rochester. As long as they keep the ball in the air and there are no short hops, I should be fine."

Another outfield experiment

Utility man Steve Scarsone was expected to work at all four infield positions this spring, but Oates also wants to see what he can do in the outfield.

"He said he wants to use the bench with more variety," Scarsone said. "It's been quite awhile since I played out there. I just played a little bit in college. I wouldn't say that I'm very good at it, but I'll work at it."

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