Martinez's inside-the-park slam exciting in any language


FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Orioles had many hits and heroes in yesterday's 15-5 exhibition drubbing of the Boston Red Sox, but the talk of the clubhouse was shortstop Eddie Martinez.

In the seventh inning, Martinez, slated to play in Single-A rookie ball later this summer, slammed a ball into the left-center-field gap and circled the bases in a blazing 14 seconds, three runners ahead of him. A grand slam.

Not bad for a 17-year-old who weighs about 145 pounds.

"I'll tell you what," said Orioles manager Phil Regan, "that kid's going to be a good little ballplayer -- he is right now. With a little experience, he's going to be outstanding."

Sherman Obando was on third, Damon Buford on second and Jack Voigt on first when Martinez surprised everyone with his long drive, including Red Sox center fielder Lee Tinsley, who dived -- and missed.

Martinez, running as hard as he could as soon as he hit the ball, was only about 40 feet behind Voigt when the ball landed, because Voigt had to hold up and make sure the ball wasn't caught.

As Voigt neared third, coach Steve Boros waved wildly -- Go, go -- and Voigt went. Boros held up his arms to hold Martinez, but, as he said later, Martinez was so close behind Voigt that Boros didn't get his sign up in time for the young shortstop to see the change.

That's what Boros thought. What actually happened is that Martinez saw the sign and ran through it, as he said later through temporary interpreter Leo Gomez. (Gomez suggested that Boros' stop sign was in English, and since Martinez, a native of the Dominican Republic, only speaks Spanish, he didn't understand.)

"I wanted to go all the way," Martinez said.

He slid headfirst, barely beating the tag from Red Sox catcher Mike Macfarlane. In the stands, Orioles general manager Roland Hemond leaped to his feat with excitement.

"I didn't realize he was that fast," Hemond said.

Unfortunately, Martinez sprained a finger on his slide and was removed. But the Orioles should be seeing more of him -- perhaps a lot more, in about three or four years, the amount of training Martinez figures he needs before he's ready for the big leagues.

No leaving early on this Friday

Today figures to be a busy day for Hemond, who has lots on his agenda.

* Hemond is expected to sign Andy Van Slyke to a one-year deal worth in the range of $700,000 to $750,000. Van Slyke, in the second day of auditioning for a job he already seems to have, singled home two runs. "I want to see if he's healthy," Regan repeated. "He looks healthy to me."

* Hemond must finalize contracts for five players who aren't eligible for arbitration -- outfielders Jeffrey Hammonds, Damon Buford, Sherman Obando and Voigt, and pitcher Arthur Rhodes.

Today is the last day clubs can unilaterally renew 1995 contracts, something the Orioles would do if they can't reach agreement.

Voigt said last night that his agent expected to agree to terms, as did the agent for Hammonds.

"I'm confident that we'll put a deal together [today]," said Jeffrey Moorad, Hammonds' agent. "I've always felt that renewals aren't healthy for the player or the club, especially a player of Jeffrey's caliber."

Assuming the Orioles settle those contracts, only four players will remain unsigned, all of them arbitration eligible -- Gomez, pitchers Ben McDonald and Mike Mussina, and second baseman Bret Barberie.

The Orioles and the players will exchange arbitration figures on April 28, although it's possible Hemond could avoid the process by negotiating one-year deals with Gomez and Barberie and multi-year contracts with McDonald and Mussina.

Thanks, but no thanks

The Orioles offered Rule V draftee Russell Brock back to Oakland for $25,000 yesterday, and Athletics general manager Sandy Alderson said last night he would take the right-handed pitcher back.

To avoid offering Brock back to the Athletics, the Orioles would've had to keep the right-hander in the big leagues all year. With spring training so short this year and the need for effective pitchers heightened, Brock had almost no chance of making the major-league club.

"I think Brock falls into the same category a lot of pitchers have," Regan said. "He's a victim of the strike situation. It's the same with Jimmy Haynes, the same with [Rick] Krivda."

Krivda and Haynes were two Orioles prospects who were barely seen by Regan and the coaches before being returned to the minors.

The Orioles made several other roster changes yesterday involving minor-leaguers. Pitcher William Percibal was optioned to Single-A High Desert, and outfielder Mark Smith was optioned to Triple-A Rochester. Pitcher Brian Sackinsky also will go to Rochester after pitching against the Blue Jays in Dunedin today.

Around the horn

Rochester right-hander John DeSilva will start the Orioles' final exhibition Monday in Philadelphia. Regan would not say whether DeSilva will be added to the Opening Day roster and remain with the team when it flies to Kansas City Tuesday. . . . Gomez mishandled a grounder in the third inning, ending the Orioles' streak of 46 straight innings without an error. . . . Designated hitter Harold Baines and catcher Chris Hoiles, both nursing sore shoulders, both said they felt better. . . . It was that kind of day: Greg Zaun doubled on a ball that didn't leave the infield. His high popup fell between staggering infielders and bounced high and straight up off the pitching rubber. By the time the Red Sox gained control of the ball, Zahn was standing on second. . . . Non-roster invitee Kevin Bass has two hits in seven at-bats and has impressed Regan and the coaching staff. . . . Hemond disagreed with Sid Fernandez's statement that his dramatic weight loss is hurting his fastball. "His velocity is better than it was last spring," Hemond said.

Parting shot

The Orioles' rotation for the first five games of the season: Mussina, McDonald, Fernandez, Kevin Brown and Rhodes. Mussina will naturally fall in line to start the home opener against Milwaukee on May 1.

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