O's flash signal for '98 pitch Adding quality starter, re-signing free agents top win-it-all agenda; 'Whatever it takes, we'll do'; Likes of Kile would let Key be No. 4; shift from 'small ball' questioned


Still hurting from Wednesday's American League Championship Series loss to the Cleveland Indians, Orioles general manager Pat Gillick and assistant Kevin Malone say they will attempt to preserve as much of this year's team as possible while pursuing a quality starting pitcher, preferably through free agency.

At the same time, the Orioles brain trust says the club will press to re-sign free agents Randy Myers and Brady Anderson.

Gillick confirmed the intended direction less than 24 hours after the favored Orioles were denied a World Series invitation they have been waiting for since 1983 by an Indians team that won 86 regular-season games and was outscored in the ALCS.

To carry out the plan, the Orioles must manage a swelling payroll that this year stretched to $58 million, plus another $5 million in benefits. Re-signing Anderson and Myers and gaining another starting pitcher easily could bump the payroll toward $65 million.

Gillick predicted earlier this month that the industry may witness its first $70 million team next season but he does not think the Orioles will be that club.

"We want one thing: to win a world championship. So whatever it takes, we'll do," Malone said yesterday. "Sitting here today ain't fun. We should be in Florida right now getting ready to go to a workout. We're not here to be also-rans or contenders. We're here to win."

By acquiring another headline pitcher, such as Houston Astros free-agent right-hander Darryl Kile, the Orioles could adjust their rotation, dropping inning-sensitive Jimmy Key into the No. 4 starter role and Scott Kamieniecki, if re-signed, into a No. 5 spot that proved so problematic this season.

The philosophy has the endorsement of majority owner Peter Angelos, who said yesterday no cap has been set for salaries. "I'm not bound by budgets. I'm bound by goals and championships," Angelos said.

Angelos expressed dissatisfaction with escalating salaries but acknowledged "the organization would do whatever necessary" to remain a playoff participant. "I think our No. 1 priority is pitching," he said. "You can never have enough pitching. Our pitching performed well. It was our hitting that let us down, though."

Gillick's and Malone's blueprint apparently will be one of maintenance and searching elsewhere.

The Orioles hold little hope of adding from within, especially among position players. Pitchers Nerio Rodriguez and Esteban Yan offer the best chance.

"This isn't a club you develop along the way," Malone said. "You can't really develop because every year you're trying to win a world championship. We can develop to some degree, but not to the extent of what I would call true development. We're not building for the future. The future is now.

"When we don't win a world championship, we're disappointed. And it hurts. I think we have a different kind of club, a different kind of organization."

The club has seven free agents of its own: Myers, Anderson, Kamieniecki, catcher Lenny Webster, infielder Jeff Reboulet, outfielder Jerome Walton and designated hitter Harold Baines. It also must decide whether to offer right-handed DH Geronimo Berroa arbitration, a move that appears doubtful. Kamieniecki, who won 10 games as the No. 4 starter, also represents a priority.

Gillick didn't deny a need to upgrade the catching tandem of Chris Hoiles and Webster, both of whom suffered injury-filled second halves. Hoiles likely will be exposed to the expansion draft because of a hefty contract. However, Gillick says there is little reason to believe in outside aid.

"Everybody who's got a catcher knows what they've got. I think they're going to hold onto them," he said. "The only way you're going to find a catcher is to develop one or find someone who's really in the doghouse."

Saying he will return for the final year of his three-year, $2.4 million contract, Gillick added he also expects manager Davey Johnson and his entire coaching staff to return. However, the club yesterday granted Toronto permission to interview hitting coach Rick Down for its managerial vacancy.

"I think the manager and the coaching staff did a good job. To go wire-to-wire and win 98 games. I think the players want them back," Gillick said.

Angelos declined to comment on the status of Johnson or his staff.

Gillick remains stung over the team's lack of offense in its ALCS wipeout. The Orioles lost four one-run games, three in the Indians' final at-bat. Wednesday's elimination came after an 0-for-12 performance with runners in scoring position that included only one ball out of the infield.

"I think sometimes our guys try to do too much," said Gillick. "I think sometimes we're trying to hit a home run to get us up 2-0 or 3-0 instead of getting us in position to score a run. I don't think the problem is that our club is inept. We're just trying too hard to put us up too far."

The team's failure to exploit scoring opportunities rankled many in management. Even some within the clubhouse wonder whether it is indicative of a philosophy that gradually crept away from "small ball" as the season went on.

Palmeiro, who suffered a 3-for-20 postseason run with men on base, said the past week's pain will linger. "It hurts. It'll keep

hurting. But I'll use it as motivation. You look back at what went wrong, I don't know how you forget. Last year, we got beat [by New York]. This year, we gave it away. We didn't hit. We didn't hit, period."

Pub Date: 10/17/97

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