The Orioles will open their training facilities for off-season workouts on schedule Monday -- but not for the purpose of recruiting replacement players.
Traditionally, players living in the area have begun workouts the first Monday after the New Year's holiday, but this year the number will be greatly reduced. Because of the players strike, which has been in effect since Aug. 12, those on the 40-man major-league roster will not be allowed to work out at Camden Yards.
"Primarily the facilities will be open for the minor-leaguers who are living here," said assistant general manager Frank Robinson. "We might also bring in some free agents in whom we have some interest."
However, it's doubtful if many, or any, free agents will use team facilities for off-season workouts. The players association has generally discouraged players from working out formally during the strike, feeling it weakens the union's bargaining position.
"I don't think we'd be allowed to do that," said catcher Jeff Tackett, one of the Orioles who was not tendered a contract and thus became a free agent. "I'm starting to get myself in shape now, but we'll be working out on our own."
Robinson emphasized the informal workouts will not be for the purpose of scouting potential replacement players.
"That is something we haven't even discussed," said Robinson. "We're proceeding as if it's business as usual."
Orioles owner Peter Angelos has voiced strong disapproval of baseball's contingency plan to open the season with replacement players. And his front office is operating under the assumption that won't happen.
There has been some speculation that teams may open spring training camps earlier than usual to get a better look at potential replacement players. But general manager Roland Hemond, who returned to the office yesterday after his annual holiday vacation, said the Orioles have no such plans.
"We've set our dates for pitchers and catchers to report Feb. 1and the rest of the squad on the 22nd," said Hemond. "We're still preparing for everything to go as planned."
Baseball has made contingency plans, which include thimplementation of a salary cap, but many of the details are vague at this point.
"We've gotten a [salary cap] figure and we know how our existing players will be treated under their contracts," said Joe Foss, the club's vice chairman of business and finance. "We're waiting for baseball to send back copies of what we have available [under the proposed salary cap] based on offers we've made."
The Orioles have 10 players under contract for 1995. They also have made qualifying offers to catcher Chris Hoiles and pitcher Ben McDonald, who would become restricted free agents under the salary cap plan the owners implemented after declaring an impasse in labor negotiations.
Beyond that, however, the Orioles have made little, if any, adjustments in their off-season operation. And, because of the uncertainty over the salary cap guidelines, the free-agent market currently is inactive.
"Nobody's doing anything right now," Robinson said in reference to the large number of players who are without a contract. "We're negotiating with our own players and that's about it."
However, because of the uncertainty, even those negotiations are somewhat stymied. Only those players with less than three years of service are sure of their status.
Robinson said he is unaware of what other teams are doing in regard to replacement players. "I have no idea," he said. "It's something that we haven't even talked about."