Survey gives O's a geography lesson

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Last December, Orioles officials sat down and figured out the geographic distribution of all the players on 40-man rosters around major-league baseball, and the results were somewhat surprising.

The state of California produces the most players, 20 percent. Florida ranked second, 10 percent. Third place: The Dominican Republic, with 9 percent.

These results are affecting the way the Orioles are scouting for prospects. They are shifting more manpower into international scouting. Leo Labossiere, the scout for New England and New York City, has left the organization, and Jim Howard, who scouts New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, will assume Labossiere's former territory.

The Orioles will hire two new international scouts, one for Venezuela and another who possibly may help Carlos Bernhardt with the Dominican Republic. The change makes sense: There's more baseball talent in the Dominican and in Venezuela than in Vermont or New Hampshire.

Orioles scouting director Gary Nickels and assistant Matt Slater are in the process of hiring another full-time scout for this area. Jim Gilbert, responsible for Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina and West Virginia, will become a part-time scout. Slater said Friday that he expects a new scout will be hired by the end of next week.

O's eye high school pitcher

High school pitcher John Patterson, a first-round pick in the '96 draft who became a free agent because of a technicality, worked out for Orioles scouts last week in his hometown of West Orange, Texas.

The Orioles have made an offer for Patterson, but may ultimately have to contend with the big bucks being tossed around by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Arizona shelled out a $10 million deal for Olympic first baseman Travis Lee -- which, a major-league general manager notes, is exactly how much San Diego signed likely National League Most Valuable Player Ken Caminiti for after the 1995 season.

"I'd rather give the money to a proven big-league player than somebody who hit .350, or whatever [Lee] batted, at San Diego State," said the GM, who theorizes that Diamondbacks owner Jerry Colangelo may have paid the bonus because that's what NBA rookies command. Colangelo also owns the Phoenix Suns.

"Maybe he thinks baseball players can make an instant impact, too," said the GM. "What he doesn't realize is that it takes time."

The Orioles offered $3.1 million for Lee, with a $2 million signing bonus; no wonder assistant GM Kevin Malone called Lee's final price "insanity."

Bonds market heats up

The Florida Marlins reportedly offered five players, mostly prospects, for Barry Bonds. The Giants want All-Star outfielder Jeff Conine and pitcher Al Leiter and one other player, but the sides probably will meet somewhere in between. The Mets have offered a package that includes outfielder Alex Ochoa and Carlos Baerga, whose free fall from superstar to expensive baggage has been remarkable. Apparently Cleveland general manager John Hart was right about Baerga, after all.

Will Clark, the first baseman that Orioles owner Peter Angelos didn't sign, has gone five seasons without hitting 20 homers or driving in 100 runs. He's gone four seasons without hitting 30 doubles. Clark had elbow surgery for the removal of bone spurs.

The Angels talked to the Tigers last month about a multi-player deal that would send third baseman Travis Fryman and at least one other player to California for center fielder Jim Edmonds and shortstop Gary DiSarcina. The Angels have an extra outfielder, with former No. 1 pick Darin Erstad ready to play every day, and the Tigers want to shed Fryman's salary of $6 million for next year and $6.5 million for 1998.

O's likely to draft high

The Orioles will pick 21st overall in next year's draft, and even if they sign a big-name free agent, it's likely they'll pick high in the draft; they'll receive compensation for left-handed pitcherr David Wells if he signs elsewhere.

In 1996, the Orioles paid more for their third-round pick, Darren Hooper ($275,000), than any team other than Atlanta, which signed shortstop Junior Brignac for $415,000. The Orioles paid $375,000 for second-round pick Brian Falkenborg; five teams paid more for their second-round picks.

The Orioles are keeping a close watch on their NBA prospect, Philadelphia 76ers wannabe guard/forward Ryan Minor, who is on the bubble in training camp. If Minor's basketball career crumbles, the Orioles are hoping he'll devote his future to baseball.

How to deal Bonilla

The Orioles should offer arbitration to Bobby Bonilla, which would probably guarantee him an award in the neighborhood of $5.5 million. Then the Orioles should turn around and deal him (to the Cubs, Reds or others) with $1 million to help pay his salary for two or three decent prospects. Effectively, they would be purchasing the prospects for $1 million. Not bad, considering the extraordinary money required to sign first- and second-round picks these days.

Dodgers catcher Mike Piazza is eligible for arbitration this winter, but wants a multi-year contract. His starting point in negotiations: $65 million for five years, a demand that should ultimately lead to his departure.

Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove apparently won't get a contract extension, and will go into next year on the bubble, in the last year of his contract. "I'm like everyone else," Hargrove said. "I'd like the security, but I've also been in this position before."

Atlanta's Greg Maddux has allowed one grand slam in 2,365 regular-season innings. He has allowed two in 34 2/3 innings in NL Championship Series games.

Bowa to Red Sox?

The Red Sox have talked to former White Sox manager Jeff Torborg and likely will talk to former Orioles manager Phil Regan and Cubs coach Tony Muser. The sleeper, however, may be Phillies third base coach Larry Bowa, renowned for his knowledge of the game, as well as his temper. Joe Kerrigan, who left the Montreal Expos last week, signed Friday as the Boston pitching coach.

Oriole Jimmy Haynes' first start in the Arizona Fall League: three innings, two runs, three walks, one strikeout.

Detroit general manager Randy Smith has been combing the waiver wires, looking for players he can claim and then outright to Triple-A, all part of his preparation for the expansion draft that takes place after next year. "This way we can build up the depth in our system," said Smith, "and that'll put us in better shape to deal with expansion." Smith knows something about the expansion draft: He was the assistant general manager of the Colorado Rockies in 1992, when they picked David Nied, Vinny Castilla, among others. Smith notes that four players important to the Yankees were available, at one time or another, for $20,000 or $50,000, either as a waiver claim or as a Rule 5 draftee: Bernie Williams, Paul O'Neill, John Wetteland and Kenny Rogers.

Former Orioles prospect Kimera Bartee probably will play in the minors next year in the Detroit farm system, as he learns how to switch-hit.

Trouble for Caminiti?

The Padres are worried that Ken Caminiti, coming off major surgery on his left, non-throwing shoulder, won't be available until the middle of next season.

Orioles outfielder Mike Devereaux might have been unhappy about his playing time -- he had one hit after Aug. 24 -- if the team hadn't progressed as far as it did. "You always want to win," Devereaux said. "When the team wins, you can't say much about sitting on the bench. If we wouldn't have won, I would have a different feeling right now. But the people they got [Todd Zeile and Pete Incaviglia] produced."

The Orioles retain rights to Bonilla because he did not accumulate five years of service time since his last free agency, due to the players' strike of '94 and '95. Unless a new labor agreement is reached, two marquee players who signed five-year contracts after the '92 season could be affected in the same way: the Braves' Maddux and Oakland's Mark McGwire, who could be tied to their respective teams through the '98 season due to the loophole. And all the behind-the-scenes talk regarding the status of the labor agreement is bad. Some union officials are convinced some owners don't want the proposed deal because the Players Association does, twisted logic that would kill any possible agreement.

Major League Baseball had trouble suspending Albert Belle this summer and botched the handling of the Roberto Alomar incident, but officials have found time to address a pressing issue. Apparently, Major League Baseball is considering launching an investigation into the mask worn by Toronto catcher Charlie O'Brien in the final game of the season against the Orioles. O'Brien wore his custom-painted goalie-type mask, which baseball officials didn't want him to wear for copyright reasons.

Pub Date: 10/20/96

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