SARASOTA, Fla. -- Free-agent right-hander Mike Jackson will throw today for manager Phil Regan and club executives, who are looking to improve the Orioles' potentially disastrous bullpen situation.
Jackson, 30, went 3-2 with a 1.49 ERA with the San Francisco Giants last year, but he went down with tendinitis in his pitching elbow June 17. He came off the disabled list on July 2, pitched three times, and was disabled again July 8 and didn't pitch the rest of the season.
The Orioles want to know if Jackson is healthy and throwing his 90-mph fastball; he already has thrown once for team scouts, in Houston on Monday.
If they like what they see, the Orioles could move quickly because their options for quality relief help are dwindling fast. John Franco, courted heavily by the Orioles, returned to the New York Mets, and the New York Yankees traded for Montreal closer John Wetteland. Milwaukee may trade reliever Mike Fetters, who saved 17 games last year, to Montreal, and then sign Doug Jones to replace him.
Jackson has been used as a setup man for most of his career, saving 36 games over nine major-league seasons. Regan said on Wednesday that he's comfortable with the idea of opening the year with Armando Benitez as his closer, but he wants to find some way to give the rookie some support.
Jackson threw for the Cincinnati Reds Wednesday, and if the Orioles don't sign him by tomorrow, then he'll go to Homestead, Fla., where free agents are gathering to train.
General manager Roland Hemond continued to talk with other teams and with agents yesterday, but he seemed surprised by Toronto's acquisition of Kansas City Cy Young Award winner David Cone.
"In my previous conversations with [Royals GM] Herk Robinson," Hemond said, "his name never came up. He never brought it up. He didn't indicate they were thinking of moving him."
Hemond talked to Robinson again yesterday, but not about Cone. He is believed to be discussing Kevin Appier, another Royal on the market in the Kansas City salary dump.
Reportees down to final 8
All but eight Orioles have reported to camp. Four of those are players from the Dominican Republic who are going through the visa process -- Regan said they may start arriving as soon as tomorrow -- as well as left fielder Brady Anderson, first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, right fielder Jeffrey Hammonds and pitcher Mike Oquist.
Regan said that Hammonds' surgically reconstructed right knee passed a routine re-examination yesterday, and Hammonds is expected in camp today.
Ben, get a grip on it
One of the first things that Regan and pitching coach Mike Flanagan did with Ben McDonald yesterday was talk to the right-hander about adjusting his grip on the split-fingered fastball.
McDonald has suffered from slight tendinitis in his fingers in the past, which Regan thinks could be because McDonald jams the baseball so far back into the gap between the index and middle fingers of his right hand to throw the splitter.
Regan believes McDonald can throw the pitch by holding the ball closer to the tips of his fingers.
Around the horn
Although he's generally happy with the conditioning of the incoming players, Regan indicated that several pitchers are behind in their throwing. One of those is Rule V draftee Russell Brock, who must make the Opening Day roster or be offered back to the Oakland Athletics for $25,000. Brock is behind, Regan said, because he lives in Ohio and had been unable to get in regular work during the winter. . . . If the Orioles do decide to pursue and sign free-agent outfielder Brett Butler, they may consider an unusual approach to compensating for Butler's extremely poor throwing arm. Butler could play right field in home games, taking advantage of Camden Yards' asymmetrical dimensions, and left field on the road. . . . One guy making a strong first impression is third baseman Jeff Manto, who was the second player to arrive in camp and has shown remarkable power in his first three sessions of batting practice. Manto hit 31 homers in the minors last year, but he is out of options, and must be kept on the roster or exposed to waivers. He could pressure Leo Gomez for the starting job at third base or be kept as a utility man. . . . Reliever Alan Mills has sat out the running portion of the pitchers' workouts the past two days because of a hyper-extended knee. Mills is still throwing off a mound regularly, and Regan expects him back to 100 percent shortly. . . . Bullpen catcher Elrod Hendricks, who had shoulder surgery Monday, returned to the Orioles' complex yesterday. Hendricks isn't expected to throw batting practice for at least a month. . . . Regan plans to hold his first team meeting today.
MIKE JACKSON FILE
Position: Reliever, mostly used as a setup man.
Best year: 1991. He saved 14 games for the Seattle Mariners, allowing just 64 hits in 88 2/3 innings.
Key stat: Last year, right-handed hitters batted just .137 against Jackson.
Upside: When he's healthy, can be an extremely intimidating reliever, constantly throwing fastballs inside. He struck out 51 in 42 1/3 innings.
Downside: He may not be healthy.