Moves leave Krivda on outside looking in

THE BALTIMORE SUN

At the time, the consensus was that Rick Krivda had just won the biggest game of the year, beating the Boston Red Sox on Sept. 25 when the Orioles were struggling on the verge of losing their hold of the wild card.

Orioles manager Davey Johnson praised Krivda, and said he would feel quite comfortable starting the 1997 season with the 26-year-old left-hander in the rotation.

Apparently, that's not going to be the case. In fact, there's a good chance Krivda won't be with the Orioles when the season starts the result of a roster crunch.

The Orioles' rotation will include Mike Mussina, Jimmy Key, Scott Erickson, Rocky Coppinger and Shawn Boskie, and the front office is looking to trade for a left-hander who could bump Boskie to the bullpen. Barring injury, there doesn't seem to be much room for Krivda, who went 3-5 with a 4.96 ERA last season.

But Krivda is out of options, and cannot be sent to the minor leagues without being passed through waivers. He's left-handed and has had some success, so it's unlikely he could clear. The Orioles are more likely to trade him than lose him for the $20,000 waiver price.

There are other Orioles who will be affected by the influx of players. Mike Bordick signed a three-year deal to be the everyday shortstop, and nobody is pretending anymore that Manny Alexander has a future with the Orioles. He, too, is out of options and cannot be sent to the minors; he, too, will likely be traded (the Atlanta Braves and Kansas City Royals have expressed interest) .

Eric Davis, Brady Anderson and B. J. Surhoff wil make up the outfield. There's no regular job available for Jeffrey Hammonds. who could use a change of scenery. If the Orioles don't trade him, it's doubtful they would keep him as a bench player. He needs to play every day to develop, and he has two minor-league options left. Tony Tarasco has one option remaining, and he can be sent to the minors if needed.

Catcher Cesar Devarez is out of options, and must be kept in the big leagues or passed through waivers and taken off the 40-man roster. Pitcher Jimmy Haynes has one option left. There is another round of Decisions coming in March.

B. Ripken male puzzling

Gillick and assistant general manager Kevin Malone have accomplished a lot this off-season improving the defense and bench signing Key, steering clear of the wild spending virus that has manifested itself in the offices of the Florida Marlins and Chicago White Sox. But the Orioles' decision to let Bill Ripken go didn't make a whole lot of sense.

Ripken did an excellent job as a utility man in 1996, sitting for weeks and then producing, always playing solid defense, always working hard. He wanted to play here, fans want him to play here and he didn't cost much-he signed a one-year, $275,000 deal with the Texas Rangers.

Get me to the trade on time

Padres general manager Kevin Towers stood outside a San Diego church Dec. 14, waiting for his bride to arrive, and one of his groomsmen, Detroit general manager Randy Smith, tried to think of a way to distract him.

They began to talk about a possible trade, renewing a conversation they started the night before at the rehearsal dinner, and just before Smith went to usher guests into the church, he and Towers agreed to a swap: Towers would give up pitcher Willie Blair and catcher Brian Johnson for pitcher Joey Eischen and a minor-leaguer. The trade was announced three days later. "It kept him from getting nervous," said Smith.

* Only nine players remain from the 40-man roster that Smith assumed when the Tigers hired him in October '95.

* If the expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays come in as an AL team, look for them to be placed in the AL East, with the Tigers shifting to the Central and the Kansas City Royals moving to the West. Contending against traditional powers such as the Orioles, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays will be a huge task for a fledgling franchise.

* When the union finished applying all service time lost during the strike, Orioles outfielder Tarasco was left about six days short of qualifying for arbitration.

O's keep tabs on Minor

Orioles officials are closely monitoring the box scores of the Oklahoma City Cavalry of the Continental Basketball & 2/3 Association. That's where top minor-league prospect Ryan Minor trying to establish his basketball career, with marginal success. Minor is averaging about 23 minutes and Light points, not the kinds of numbers that will propel him into the NBA.

The Orioles are hoping he'll commit to baseball full time and develop his skills as a third baseman, believing he could evolve into a big-time power hitter. They're dangling an invitation to major-league spring training as bait, and probably will also give him a little more money, above and beyond the $100,000 bonus he'll receive.

* Fox TV reportedly intends to cut its pre-game show to 12 minutes, and NBC is trying to dump its baseball rights on another network. More evidence that it's time to enlarge the strike zone, shorten games and make them more crisp and viewer friendly.

* Left-hander Steve Avery supposedly has been given a five-year, $22 million offer. If so, some team may be duped. At least two teams clocked Avery's fastball in the 79-81 mph range.

* New Houston manager Larry Dierker is popular among his new pitchers. He's encouraging them to play as much golf as possible this off-season, saying that the mental demands of golf are similar to those of pitching in the majors (putting mistakes behind you and moving on to the next shot, or pitch). "Darryl Kile loves me," said Dierker, "but his wife isn't very happt."

Pirates abandoning ship?

* Since last July, the Pittsburgh Pirates have traded infielders Jay Bell, Carlos Garcia and Jeff King, outfielders Dave Clark and Orlando Merced, and pitchers Denny Neagle and Dan Plesac. Their top returning run producers for 1997 will be outfielder Al Martin, who drove in 72 runs last year, and first baseman Mark Johnson, who drove in 47 runs. This is a disaster, and some executives in baseball believe the Pirates are headed for Northern Virginia.

* Cleveland Indians officials can't believe how little the Royals had to give up to get King and Bell. The Indians say they offered far more for King than what the Royals surrendered-Joe Randa and three minor-league pitchers - and are beginning to wonder why Pirates GM Cam Bonifay won't deal with them. The Indians, you may recall, felt Bonifay dealt left-hander Neagle to Atlanta for less than what Cleveland offered. Even Royals. GM Herk Robinson seemed astounded that he could make the trade, almost openly mocking Bonifay. "I like Joe Randa," said Robinson, "but come on. Not to pat myself on the back, but this trade is unbelievable." Bonifay followed that with the strangest signing of the entire off-season, giving shortstop Kevin Elster $1.6 million. Why sign Elster, with limited range, to play on artificial Surface? If the team is cutting salaries and is destined for a bad year, why give anybody that kind of money? Absolutely bizarre.

* The Indians need a front-line starting pitcher, and they resisted the temptation of overpaying to sign David Wells or Kevin Tapani. They say they can sign a No. 1 starter next fall, when Mussina, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson are all scheduled to become free agents. But with Kenny Lofton also due for free agency, their window of opportunity is 1997.

* The Chicago Cubs have had a terrible bullpen the past couple of years. Now, with the signing of Mel Rojas to be the closer, they have some good depth, with Bob Patterson, Terry Adams and Turk Wendell in middle relief. It's strange that they spent so much for starter Tapani, however ($11.5 million over three years), considering that arm problems prevented him from throwing a split-fingered fastball the last couple of months of the season.

More Clemens fallout

As he left Boston, Roger Clemens ripped Red Sox GM Dan Duquette for being a poor communicator, out of touch with the players. It was a cheap shot, and Clemens is not necessarily qualified as a judge of ability or character (remember when he threatened to sit out the last game of the season to protect his market value?). But such harsh criticism from a hero such as Clemens is a devastating blow for Duquette in Boston; his support will plummet if the Red Sox flounder in '97.

* By the way, one team familiar with Clemens' medical history says it believes there's only a 50-50 chance he'll stay healthy through the second year of his contract his three-year, $24.75 million deal that includes an option for a fourth year.

* Toronto president Paul Beeston went all-out to woo Clemens. When he flew to Texas to meet with the pitcher, he dressed like a cowboy-jeans, Western shirt (he didn't wear cowboy boots). He might've felt a little silly when Clemens' agents met him at the airport wearing business suits.

By the numbers

* Eric Davis hit .327 with runners in scoring position, with 0 eight homers in 107 at-bats.

* Davis batted .203 late in close games, with 24 strikeouts in 64 at-bats.

* Davis, coming back after a year off, batted .281 with 14 homers and 50 RBIs before the All-Star break, .292 with 12 homers and 33 RBIs after the break.

* Shawn Boskie started two games on three days' rest last season, and won both, allowing two runs and seven hits in 10 2/3 innings.

* Mike Bodrick batted .240 overall, and .272 late in close games-almost 100 points better than his average leading off innings (.179).

* New backup catcher Lenny Webster isn't a great hitter, but he isn't necessarily an easy out, either-he had more walks(25) than strikeouts (21 ) last year, and hits lots of ground balls (2.38 for every fly ball in 1996), the sort of hitter who can be adept with runners in motion.

Pub Date: 12/22/96

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