It's deja vu for Todd Frohwirth and the Orioles, but this time the right-handed reliever won't go into spring training as an unknown.
Frohwirth, who along with bullpen partner Gregg Olson wasn't tendered a contract by the Dec. 20 deadline, yesterday agreed to a minor-league contract with the Orioles. He has been invited to spring training as a non-roster player, as he was three years ago.
After spending six years in the Philadelphia Phillies organization, Frohwirth signed a minor-league contract with the Orioles in 1991, trying to win a spot on a pitching staff in dire need of help.
That was the year of the most recent lockout, and Frohwirth never had much of an opportunity to prove himself to then-manager Frank Robinson. He'll be in a better position this time, having pitched in 186 games for the Orioles over the past three years.
Frohwirth was 7-3 with a 1.87 ERA in 51 games 1991, and 4-3 with a 2.46 ERA in 65 games in 1992. Those numbers earned him a $900,000 contract for last year, but when he went 6-7 with a 3.83 ERA in 70 games, the Orioles decided not to risk arbitration and allowed Frohwirth to become a free agent.
Details of Frohwirth's contract weren't announced, but it calls for a substantially lower salary than a year ago. Adam Katz, the agent who represents Frohwirth, said there weren't a lot of negotiations.
"Todd didn't give me the freedom to contact every major-league club," said Katz. "I had a very short list, and it was evident early that there was a soft market for Todd.
"It's not a tremendous contract, but it was our best offer. Todd won't make as much as he made last year, but he'll make a healthy salary, and hopefully have a chance to make more next year."
Orioles manager Johnny Oates wasn't available for comment, but he has indicated Frohwirth was one of the pitchers who could fit into his plans for the coming season.
General manager Roland Hemond reiterated that, without saying Frohwirth was guaranteed a job.
"We're trying to get some depth and Todd has pitched well for us the last three years," said Hemond. "He didn't pitch as well last year as he did the previous two, but he's a guy who can give us some innings."
Meanwhile, as they continue negotiations with Olson, the Orioles reportedly have made a minor-league offer to former Chicago White Sox closer Bobby Thigpen.
Hemond would not confirm or deny the report, saying only, "We've had some discussions with his [Thigpen's] representative. You always explore various possibilities."
Hemond said he talked to Jeff Moorad, Olson's agent, two days ago, but that there was little to report on the status of the Orioles' closer for the past five years.
Olson has drawn interest from a number of teams, with the Toronto Blue Jays and California Angels among the most prominent. But he and Moorad have said their primary objective is to work a deal with the Orioles. It is expected Olson will make a decision within two weeks.