Van Slyke likes Orioles, but not their $1 million contract offer


SARASOTA, Fla. -- Andy Van Slyke wants to play for the Orioles; there's not much doubt about that. The question is whether the free-agent outfielder can wrap up a deal after months of negotiations.

According to a club source, Van Slyke turned down a one-year, $1 million offer Saturday and the void between the two sides remains substantial. Van Slyke, 34, made $3.65 million last year and wants about half that for 1995.

The Orioles, however, don't plan to adjust their offer any time soon, feeling no pressing need to add an outfielder. A club source says the only way an agreement will be reached in the next few days is if Van Slyke accepts the Orioles' bid. But another source familiar with the negotiations says that Van Slyke eventually will sign with the Orioles.

With Opening Day little more than two weeks away, Van Slyke might be feeling some pressure to sign a deal quickly. His agent, Dick Moss, offered the Orioles the chance to have Van Slyke report to camp to work out with the team, but general manager Roland Hemond declined.

"Time is very precious right now," Hemond said, "and you want to use it for the players who are on your roster."

Van Slyke said he's ready to get to a major-league camp.

"I'd really like to get to Florida," said Van Slyke, who would not comment on the status of the negotiations. "I'd really like to get on the field. I'm tired of treadmills, batting cages and throwing against a wall."

He reiterated that he would like to play for the Orioles.

"I can offer something the Orioles need -- some outfield play, a contribution offensively," Van Slyke said. "I played in four postseasons. I've got experience there."

Hemond said no incoming free agent, Van Slyke included, would be guaranteed a starting job, and as it stands, Van Slyke would be the Orioles' fourth outfielder, behind Brady Anderson, Curtis Goodwin and Jeffrey Hammonds.

"There's no guarantee all three of them are going to be All-Star players for six months," Van Slyke said. "There's no guarantee I would, either. I have confidence I'll play well enough if I'm with the Orioles that I'll force them to play me.

"If this kid from Double-A [Goodwin] is as good as they think, then he's got a great future. I know Phil [Regan] has been saying great things about him."

The Orioles also have spoken to Moss about another of his clients, center fielder Brett Butler. If they signed Butler, however, it likely would only be if Van Slyke wound up elsewhere and if they determine, in another two weeks, that Goodwin can't make such a quick jump from Double-A or if Hammonds' surgically repaired knee were hurting.

The Orioles also have had cursory discussions about Mickey Tettleton and Tom Brunansky, two other veterans still looking for jobs.

Manto fan club

Regan did it again yesterday. He talked about how much he liked Jeff Manto, who is attempting to make the club as a utility man.

"I'm more intrigued with him every day," Regan said. "He told me today that he could play first and second, as well as first and third."

Manto, 30, has played just about every position in his 10 years of professional ball. Drafted as an outfielder, converted to a corner infielder, told by former Cleveland Indians manager John McNamara to learn how to catch or face dire consequences, Manto learned versatility.

He never had hit more than 24 homers in any season before last year, when he had 31 in 131 games at Triple-A Norfolk and Rochester -- because, he said, he finally learned how to hit the ball to the opposite field regularly (Manto is a right-handed hitter).

"I got into a zone -- the infamous zone -- and I couldn't get out of it," he said.

Manto, who has played in 85 major-league games, is out of options and must be kept in the big leagues or passed through waivers. But he said he's not assuming he'll be in the majors somewhere. "I've been humbled plenty of times in the past."

It's not out of the realm of possibility that Manto could challenge Leo Gomez for the third base job, but Manto is regarded as a defensive liability at that position.

Orosco vs. left-handers

The Orioles are going to use newly signed left-hander Jesse Orosco against left-handers late in games, even though Orosco has been more effective against right-handed hitters in recent years. Left-handers hit .263 against him in 1994, right-handers .195.

Orosco acknowledged the problem yesterday after arriving in camp, saying that he wants to re-establish himself against left-handers. "I need to start working on them harder," he said. "I need to move the ball around a little bit more."

Orosco said he had gotten into the habit of throwing nothing but breaking pitches to left-handers. He wants to mix in a few more inside fastballs.

Meanwhile, right-hander Kevin Brown, signed on Saturday, worked out for the first time yesterday. As he met with the media afterward, Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, a former teammate in Texas who encouraged Brown to sign with the Orioles, stuck his head around the corner and gave a thumbs-down sign.

Palmeiro interrupted Brown and said, "He's lying."

Brown: "Look at that gray in his hair."

Palmeiro: "That's because of his bad throws to first in Texas."

Really, these guys like each other.

Benitez impresses

Armando Benitez, the closer in training, awed the coaching staff yesterday, as well as the new closer.

Doug Jones, warming up next to Benitez, watched the rookie blaze a few fastballs, then turned to coach Moe Drabowsky and said, "Tell Phil I can start, too." . . .

Regan asked Billy Percibal, another Dominican Republic native who arrived Saturday, when he pitched last. Percibal told him that on April 2, he pitched against a team with a handful of professionals and struck out 23 and walked one in nine innings. "You can see why," Regan said, "when you see him throw."

Around the horn

Hammonds is making cuts, putting all kinds of pressure on his knee, and said it feels fine. "I'm really testing it," Hammonds said. "I'm not going to make any assessment for another week. Then, when I see where I'm at and I'm OK, then I'll start smiling." . . . Anderson is fielding fly balls in center and left field in DTC practice. . . . Goodwin has arrived a half-hour early and remained a half-hour late to practice bunting. "He knows," said third base coach Steve Boros, "that he needs to do it."

Alan Mills' sinker, a pitch he added this spring, was diving all over the place yesterday. "All he needs now is to learn how to control it," Regan said. . . . Triple-A Rochester's home game yesterday was snowed out. . . . Manny Alexander is working out at third, as well as second.

Seattle left-hander Randy Johnson is being shopped all around the majors, but a club source said the Orioles have no interest, particularly now that they've signed Brown. . . . Regan on new second baseman Bret Barberie: "He reminds me of an old-fashioned ballplayer. He just loves to play. He's hard-nosed and he's quiet." . . . Every player on the Orioles' 40-man roster worked out, with no injuries to report.


Schedule for Orioles starting pitchers in the first six games of the exhibition season:

Date ... ... ... ... ... Opp. ... ... ... ... ... Pitcher

Thurs. ... ... ... .. .. Texas ... ... ... ... .. Arthur Rhodes

Friday ... ... ... .. .. Toronto .... .... ... .. Mike Mussina

Saturday ... ... ... .. Houston ... ... ... .. .. Sid Fernandez

Sunday ... ... .. .. .. Phila. ... ... ... ... .. Ben McDonald

April 17 ... ... ... .. Boston ... ... ... ... .. Arthur Rhodes

April 18 ... ... ... .. Phila. ... ... ... ... .. Kevin Brown

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