The Orioles could start the season with seven outfielders, accounting for nearly the entire bench.
Because of the durability of the Orioles infield and the versatility of players such as B. J. Surhoff and Kelly Gruber, general manager Pat Gillick said it would not be surprising if a half-dozen or more outfielders crowd the Opening Day roster.
The starting outfield is set, with Surhoff likely in left, Brady Anderson entrenched in center and newly acquired Eric Davis likely in right field. Pete Incaviglia will be a part-time outfielder, part-time designated hitter/pinch hitter, and Jerome Walton, who should win a job in spring training, is primarily an outfielder.
Tony Tarasco is an almost certain lock to make the team because of his speed and defense, but the same cannot be said of Jeffrey Hammonds, who appears to be the seventh outfielder on the depth chart.
The Orioles preferred Tarasco to the oft-injured Hammonds near the end of last season, and because the Orioles are unlikely to keep Hammonds unless he's a starter, there is a strong possibility he will be traded before spring training.
Hammonds played in just 71 games with the Orioles last season because of a series of injuries and a demotion to Triple-A, but is hitting .333 with three doubles and a home run in his first 10 games in Puerto Rico this winter.
"There is a possibility that we might end up carrying seven outfielders, and no utility infielders," Gillick said. "If something [an injury] would happen, we could move B. J. to third and [Cal] Ripken to short, and if something happened to [Roberto] Alomar, we could move Ripken to short and put [Mike] Bordick at second.
"One guy [Ripken] hasn't been out of there in 15 years and the other guy [Bordick] plays between 150 and 155. And Alomar probably always plays in the 140s. And Walton plays first, and he could make the club."
Gruber has a 50-50 chance to make the team, Gillick said, and could be the fifth infielder. Gillick said he would like to have an additional middle infielder, but it is not essential.
Gillick said he also would like to add another starting pitcher, though he said the team has not spoken recently to Philadelphia about Curt Schilling or to Texas about left-hander Darren Oliver. Gillick said he's optimistic that the Orioles can bolster their rotation by trading for another starter.
The Orioles are happy with their bullpen, but it's likely they'll have to deal a setup guy like Alan Mills to acquire a starter. Mills' name came up in previous Rangers' discussions about Oliver.
"Right now we want to improve our pitching," Gillick said. "You can never have enough pitching I think if we make another trade we'll have to tinker with the bullpen."
The remainder of the off-season also will be spent negotiating with Ripken, Anderson and ace Mike Mussina, all of whom become free agents after the 1997 season.
"I think we'd like to keep all three guys," Gillick said. "They're very positive people, and they're Oriole guys."
Pub Date: 12/21/96