SARASOTA, Fla. -- A month ago, Ted Higuera's name could've been penciled into the Orioles' Opening Day roster. He looked super in two tryouts, and manager Phil Regan wanted him, even asking the free agent to return to Florida to work out with the minor-leaguers.
But Higuera's window of opportunity with the Orioles apparently has passed. Regan said yesterday he has little interest in the veteran left-hander.
Regan has said that following the second workout, he felt Higuera had promised him that he would return. But after returning to Mexico, Higuera indicated to the Orioles that he did not want to be in camp with the players strike in progress.
Regan wanted Higuera, who is coming back from shoulder surgery, to come into camp and begin throwing and strengthening his arm. Regan planned to pitch him in some intrasquad games, hoping that by the time the other major-leaguers returned to work, Higuera would be ready and in shape.
But because Regan and pitching coach Mike Flanagan must now concentrate on other pitchers -- Ben McDonald, Mike Mussina, et al -- even if Higuera wanted to come back, Regan and his staff wouldn't have the time they feel is necessary to get Higuera ready.
"We were willing to give him that opportunity," Regan said, "but right now, I'm not sure we could give him the innings he needed. I think he's hurt himself."
Higuera may have at least one other opportunity. He has thrown for the San Diego Padres' front office in recent days. The Padres are hoping Higuera is healthy enough to add to their rotation and to help draw fans to San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium from nearby Tijuana, Mexico.
The first major-leaguers expected into camp are outfielder Jack Voigt and pitchers Arthur Rhodes, Jamie Moyer and Alan Mills, who all live near the Orioles' training complex. Voigt said yesterday that if every thing fell into place, he could be unpacking his equipment bag shortly after 8 a.m. on Wednesday, the first day for players to report voluntarily.
Orioles general manager Roland Hemond found a positive in the awful spring training. By spending so much time watching minor-leaguers, Hemond believes he has a much improved knowledge of the Orioles' entire system. He said: "This will enable you to make decisions on players" -- like trades -- "based not only on what scouts have told you, but what you've observed yourself."
Bracing for signing flurry
In what promises to be a wild period of transactions during the next two weeks, Hemond said that he and assistant general manager Frank Robinson will share the heavy burden of talking with agents and general managers.
"I don't want Frank to be isolated with just rookie contracts," Hemond said. "He'll be involved in trade talks, as well. He could be the contact man on many of these negotiations."