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With Van Slyke talks at an impasse, O's go fishing for Bass


PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- The Orioles, seemingly at an

impasse in negotiations with outfielder Andy Van Slyke, turned their attention to signing veteran switch-hitter Kevin Bass yesterday.

According to a club source, the Orioles offered Bass a one-year contract in the range of $350,000, plus incentives. If Bass, 35, agrees to terms, it's unlikely that Van Slyke will be signed.

Bass, a former regular who has adjusted to a part-time role in recent years, batted .310 in 203 at-bats for the Houston Astros last year. He batted .308 in 48 starts last year, with four homers and 30 RBIs. Bass was 9-for-26 as a pinch hitter (.346), and batted .386 with runners in scoring position.

Bass likely would be used as a part-time outfielder and pinch hitter. He earned $400,000 plus incentives last year.

In 1986, his best year, Bass hit .311, with 20 homers, 79 RBIs and 22 stolen bases.

Orioles general manager Roland Hemond said the $1 million offer to Van Slyke has been taken off the table. Van Slyke wants $1.5 million.

But Hemond wouldn't say the Orioles' interest in the 34-year-old outfielder is dead; in fact, Orioles special assistant Fred Uhlman Sr. is in Homestead watching Van Slyke.

Hemond said: "We told [Uhlman] not to rush back here."

Hemond said that Seattle Mariners general manager Woody Woodward had not gotten back to him for any more talks about left-hander Randy Johnson. On Wednesday, Hemond called Woodward to inquire about the 6-foot-10 pitcher, and Woodward said he needed to study the Orioles' organizational roster.

Obando alters plans

When spring training opened, the Orioles' plans for Sherman Obando were modest. Occasionally, they thought, he would fill in as a designated hitter, and pinch hitter.

However, after Obando's long homer in the top of the 10th propelled the Orioles to a 6-5 win over the Texas Rangers in the first exhibition of spring yesterday, manager Phil Regan said that Obando is altering his plans.

"I'll say this," Regan said. "After today, maybe we'll start working with him a little harder on being an outfielder."

Obando said: "There's a lot of opportunity -- one or two outfield spots are open. It's up to us to grab it."

The inning before Obando's at-bat, Jack Voigt had struck out on a breaking pitch down and away. First base coach Al Bumbry went into the dugout and told Damon Buford and Obando to think about the game situation -- a tie score, wind blowing out to left; naturally, the pitcher will try to get right-handed hitters out by throwing the ball outside.

Don't swing at that pitch, Bumbry said. Wait for the mistake on the inner half -- which is exactly what happened. Matt Whiteside threw a hanging slider and Obando crushed it.

O's youth is served

Young Orioles thrived against the Rangers. Curtis Goodwin tripled in his first at-bat. Obando hit the game-winning homer. William Percibal came back from a shaky start in the bottom of the 10th to earn a save (Regan had gone to the mound in the middle of the inning to tell Percibal in Spanish, "trenquito suave" -- or "take it easy."

But the most impressive rookie was 18-year-old Eddie Martinez, who was making his professional debut. Martinez, who hails from the shortstop factory of San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic, combined with second baseman Manny Alexander to turn a slick double play, and made a strong throw to nip Esteban Betre at first.

Mills among signees

The Orioles signed pitcher Alan Mills to a one-year, $600,000 deal plus incentives. Also agreeing to terms were outfielder Mark Smith (a split contract, with the major-league side at the 'N $109,000 minimum) and pitcher Mike Oquist (a deal worth about $125,000 if he makes the major-league team).

The signing of Mills leaves the Orioles with only four unsigned arbitration-eligible players: Pitchers Ben McDonald and Mike Mussina, third baseman Leo Gomez and second baseman Bret Barberie.

Oates won't trade barbs

Some of his former players -- pitcher Arthur Rhodes most notable among them -- have been zinging a few verbal darts at former Orioles manager Johnny Oates, who now manages the Rangers.

But Oates said yesterday that he wouldn't discuss anything other than the Rangers, or Cal Ripken. The other stuff, he said, is "dead."

Oates said he's saved lineup cards from Ripken's streak, Game Nos. 2000-2,009.

"I've got them all at home," he said. "Don't tell anyone, though. I've got my copy and the opposing manager's copy in my closet at home."

Oates caught himself giving away secret info.

"No, not there, in a safe deposit box. I'm going to put them in a safe deposit box."

Oates was a teammate of Hank Aaron when Aaron chased Babe Ruth's record for career homers, and was asked to compare the two records. "No comparison," he said. "Hank Aaron had to put up with some sick, sick, sick people."

Around the horn

The five pitchers for today's game against the Toronto Blue Jays: Mike Mussina, Armando Benitez, Russell Brock, Brian Sackinsky and Joe Borowski. Catcher Matt Nokes (sore knee) and outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds (knee rehab) won't travel and won't play. . . . Regan said that McDonald's sore right elbow is feeling much better, and he'll start against Houston tomorrow, right on schedule.

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