ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- For the second year in a row, right-hander Mike Mussina was the last Orioles player to sign a contract, but his one-year deal was worth the wait.
He agreed to terms yesterday on a package worth $750,000 plus incentives, one of the largest one-year contracts ever for a player with his service time.
Mussina, who won 14 games despite a nagging shoulder problem that cost him nine starts, had hoped to work out a multi-year arrangement that would prevent another contract showdown next year, but the Orioles backed away from discussions on a two-year deal with an option for the 1996 season.
"We made a suggestion and they made a proposal," Mussina said. "We came back with something and they came back with something. Then it was just gone."
The Orioles might have shied away because the most comparable pitcher in the service class was Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Juan Guzman, who got a two-year deal worth $3.8 million. Mussina said that concerns about his physical condition might have kept the club from making that kind of commitment.
"It was an issue," he said. "I imagine it had to be. That's just business. We didn't even talk until I was throwing."
Orioles general manager Roland Hemond, who worked out the deal in face-to-face negotiations with agent Arn Tellem, would not elaborate on the club's reluctance to lock up Mussina with a long-term deal.
"We decided to go with the one-year deal and there was an agreeable resolution," he said. "I don't want to get into details. We made sure he was compensated well for a player with less than three years of service."
Mussina is making a habit of being last in line at the front-office door. He signed just before the contract renewal deadline a year ago and came within 36 hours of it before coming to terms this time.
Negotiations with left-hander Arthur Rhodes also pushed well past the club's self-imposed March 3 contract deadline before agreeing to terms on a one-year contract Tuesday.
Baines makes spring debut
Designated hitter Harold Baines made his 1994 exhibition debut, contributing a single and a sacrifice fly to another big Orioles offensive performance.
"He was only supposed to take two at-bats," manager Johnny Oates said. "He came in after the second and asked if he could have one more. Then after the third, he said, 'I'd like another.' "
Baines will make the three-day trip to Florida's east coast and will be the DH in the game against the Florida Marlins in Homestead tomorrow.
Helping hand for Homestead
The Orioles will take Miami hometown heroes Rafael Palmeiro and Alex Ochoa to their split-squad game in Homestead tomorrow. The hope is that the presence of the two local players in the lineup will help boost attendance and morale in the area most ravaged by Hurricane Andrew two years ago.
Hemond confirmed that there have been scouts shadowing displaced Orioles infielders Leo Gomez and David Segui, whom the club hopes to package for another starting pitcher.
"There are some clubs that are watching them," Hemond said.
Nothing is imminent. Most clubs are still sorting through their rosters at this early stage in the exhibition season, but trade and waiver activity likely will pick up as clubs get closer to Opening Day.