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Nokes leaves O's, but not quietly


For catcher Matt Nokes, the purgatory of playing every eight or nine days is over.

The Orioles released Nokes yesterday and recalled catcher Greg Zaun from Triple-A Rochester.

Nokes was relieved. "I'm out on parole," he said.

But he didn't leave quietly.

"I don't think they knew, when they were assembling the team, what they were doing," Nokes said of Orioles management. "They didn't have a clue. They didn't know how to use everybody. They just thought everybody was going to play great because they're great players.

"I think the players are doing a great job, if you can read between the lines, then . . . I think some things have to change. Some adjustments have to be made.

"Some guys don't know their roles. They don't know if they're even liked. There's a lot of intangible things."

Nokes, who was hitting .122 (6-for-49) with two home runs and six RBIs, was dissatisfied with his playing time. Last month in Seattle, he almost asked to be let go.

"I wanted to be somewhere else," said Nokes, 31, who signed with the Orioles as a free agent before the season after eight years with Detroit and the New York Yankees.

Nokes said he never knew his role with the Orioles. Not even when he signed the one-year, $750,000 deal over the winter. At that time, Harold Baines was unsigned and Nokes said he thought he would be the team's everyday designated hitter.

But when the team re-signed Baines, Nokes' role was never redefined, he said.

"I think it's been a panic since I got here," Nokes said. "I think spring training was a panic; it was very unorganized."

Manager Phil Regan dismissed Nokes' complaints as a struggling player's excuses. He also questioned Nokes' work ethic.

"Guys always have a lot of excuses when they don't do well," Regan said. "He didn't want to hit on the road. He didn't want to take extra batting practice.

"He lifted a lot of weights, he got very strong, but you become a hitter by practicing hitting, not by looking at a bat."

Nokes' teammates said they were sorry to see him go. One by one, they came up to Nokes at his locker.

"I think we lost a good catcher, a good hitter and a great guy," fellow catcher Chris Hoiles said.

Hoiles was among the most outspoken of his teammates who disagreed with the move.

"I don't know if I like the move," Hoiles said. "I understand he's doing badly right now, but I think we still need a guy in his position, a left-handed stick off the bench to hit a three-run homer."

Regan defended the decision and said Nokes' role was clearly defined.

"When we signed him, we thought he'd be a part-time player," Regan said. "He felt he should be an everyday player.

"The way he catches, the way he throws, the way he's hitting, I don't know if he could be a regular anywhere."

That doesn't mean Nokes' former Yankees manager, Buck Showalter, isn't interested in his services.

"I don't know yet," Showalter said. "I've made people aware of the situation."

Nokes said he will sit down with his agent, Arn Tellem, and decide which major-league team most needs a left-handed, power-hitting catcher.

Now that his stay with the Orioles is over, Nokes said he just wants to go someplace where he will play.

"I made the adjustment to playing on the NFL schedule," Nokes said of his weekly appearances with the Orioles, "which is something that I don't think any player who hits for power is a very easy adjustment."


Yesterday's comments by Matt Nokes (right) were the latest in a season of controversy.

* April 18: Free agent Andy Van Slyke is given an unpaid tryout after contract offer is pulled off table. He signs three days later, only to be traded June 18.

* April 28: New second baseman Bret Barberie is benched after two games.

* May 14: Jeffrey Hammonds charges out of clubhouse after being sent to Double-A Bowie.

* May 29: Mike Mussina blasts team for "going through motions" after 6-5 loss in Anaheim.

* June 7: Armando Benitez cleans out locker after fourth grand slam off Orioles in two weeks.

* June 8: Departing reliever Brad Pennington and Regan trade parting shots.

* June 17: Manager Phil Regan yells at players, calling them "pathetic," after sicth loss in row.

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