Gregg Olson joined the informal off-season workout program at Camden Yards yesterday, but it's too early to speculate about the closer's return to the Orioles.
It also would be a mistake to assume that he is a candidate to report to spring training without a resolution to the baseball strike.
The Orioles have extended invitations to former players who are free agents and not associated with other clubs to use the team's facilities for winter preparations. "We extended an invitation to Gregg out of courtesy to him, just as we did to Jim Poole, Mark Williamson and Jeff Tackett," said assistant general manager Frank Robinson.
"He [Olson] is a former Oriole who is not connected with any other team, but we're not watching him or trying to make any judgment on him."
General manager Roland Hemond had said last week he was unsure what the policy would be about free agents using club facilities. But, with strong hints of using replacement players and making spring training open for those who might wish to cross the line, teams are not going to discourage those who want to prepare for spring training.
Olson was the first to take advantage of the Orioles' offer, but said nothing should be read into his situation and that he has players association approval.
"Roland called me the other day and offered Camden Yards as a place to work out, but that's all we talked about." Olson said. "I'm trying to get myself straightened out -- fixed mechanically. That was my problem most of last year."
After not being offered arbitration by the Orioles, Olson became a free agent a year ago and signed with the Atlanta Braves, who did not offer him a contract for 1995. He missed the last two months of the previous year with elbow problems and had one save in 16 games (9.20 ERA) for the Braves.
"Physically, everything's good," said Olson. "I didn't wait as long this year [to begin preparation]. This time I want to make sure I'm ready for spring training -- if there is a spring training."
However, Olson said he won't be tempted to report without a settlement. "I don't want to end my baseball life," he said.
Hemond said he thought some of the other free agents might follow Olson's lead and take the Orioles up on their offer to use Camden Yards.
During labor strife, clubs have denied access to roster players, who in turn have been encouraged by the union to refrain from organized workouts. But the union also has strongly encouraged players not to jeopardize their careers.
For players such as Olson, Poole, Tackett and Williamson, all without jobs, it will be important to be ready when, or if, spring training starts.
Jeffrey Hammonds, who is recovering from knee surgery, is the only player on the Orioles' 40-man roster who has been approved to participate in off-season workouts at Camden Yards.
"That's because he is a rehabilitation player," said Robinson, noting that Hammonds finished the season on the disabled list.
It is expected that Hammonds will use Camden Yards during the off-season, but on an irregular basis.
Budig may rule on streak
Cal Ripken's consecutive-games streak soon may be in the hands ofAmerican League president Gene Budig. If owners begin the major-league season with replacement teams, Budig will decide whether those games end Ripken's pursuit of Lou Gehrig's all-time mark.
Phyllis Merhige, a league spokeswoman, said league officials haven't looked at the Ripken issue.
"It's accurate to say that statistics fall under the purview of the league," she said. "But we have not made any decisions at this juncture, nor do we intend to until we absolutely have to."
Ripken's streak is 2,009 games, 122 behind Gehrig's 2,130.
Red Wings name GM
Dan Mason has been named general manager of the Rochester Red Wings, the Orioles' affiliate in the Triple-A International League.
He replaces Joe Altobelli, who will become special assistant to team president Elliot Curwin. In his new role, Altobelli, 62, will work with Curwin to promote the team. Altobelli, the Orioles' manager from 1983 to 1986, begins his 14th year as a player, manager or administrator with the Red Wings.
Mason, 27, was the Red Wings' director of group sales and promotions for three years before being named assistant GM before the 1993 season.