The Orioles' search for a reserve outfielder had focused on former National League Rookie of the Year Jerome Walton, but it now appears that he will sign with the defending World Series champion Atlanta Braves.
Orioles general manager Pat Gillick considered Walton a perfect fit for the utility outfielder role because of his solid power statistics against left-handed pitching last year with the Cincinnati Reds, but has all but given up hope of signing him.
"My information is that he is leaning toward Atlanta," Gillick said.
There had been speculation that the Orioles might consider free-agent outfielder Roberto Kelly, but Gillick said last night that Kelly had not come up in organizational discussions.
On other Orioles fronts:
* The club continues to add new faces at every level of the organization. The club announced yesterday that former major-league manager Tom Trebelhorn has been named minor-league coordinator of instruction and former Orioles pitcher Ross Grimsley has been appointed pitching coach of the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings.
In addition, the team hired former Los Angeles Dodgers coach and player Joe Ferguson to manage the Orioles' Single-A club at High Desert (Calif.); promoted former High Desert manager Tim Blackwell to the managerial post at Single-A Frederick, and moved rookie-league manager Julio Garcia from Gulf Coast to Bluefield. The Gulf Coast (Fla.) team and the Orioles' extended spring training program will be run by Tommy Shields.
The moves are part of an organizational overhaul that Gillick hopes will upgrade a minor-league system that has not exactly been the envy of the rest of major-league baseball.
* Gillick and new assistant GM Kevin Malone were in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., yesterday to meet with two defectors from the Cuban national team. The Florida Marlins appear to have the inside track on signing pitchers Livan Hernandez and Osvaldo Fernandez, but Gillick and Malone -- with an assist from first baseman Rafael Palmeiro -- are trying to sell them on the Orioles.
* The Orioles have not finalized the major-league coaching staff. The club apparently is considering former New York Yankees coach Rick Down as a hitting coach.