PHOENIX -- Before last season, Jeff Reboulet arrived at the Orioles' Fort Lauderdale spring training facility without a job and with no guarantees. Next February, he will return with a major-league contract and the prospect of serving as the American League East champion's man for all positions.
Two days after the club lost utility infielder Aaron Ledesma to the expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the Orioles re-signed Reboulet to a one-year, $450,000 contract.
Though Reboulet's return didn't hinge on Ledesma's departure, the loss only heightened the 33-year-old's significance to a team that struggled with infield depth for much of last season.
Reboulet, who served as part of the potent B team that defeated Seattle Mariners ace Randy Johnson four times in 1997, including twice during the American League Division Series, earned only $200,000 last year while giving the Orioles a .237 average with four home runs and a career-high 27 RBIs in 228 at-bats. Two of the home runs came off Johnson.
Reboulet was awarded only a split contract last Jan. 30, but survived to make 56 starts, including 28 in a 37-game stretch from July 30-Sept. 7, when second baseman Roberto Alomar nursed a pulled groin muscle.
"They wanted me back and I wanted to be back," said Reboulet, who played five seasons with the Minnesota Twins before arriving in Baltimore. "We have a chance to win and it's something I want to be part of."
Incentives will augment Reboulet's salary. Beginning at 200 at-bats, he will receive $25,000 for every 50 plate appearances. Reboulet had 265 plate appearances last year, including a team-high 11 sacrifice bunts.
The announcement of Reboulet's signing coincided with the Orioles filing their 40-man roster with the commissioner's office.
Players with three or more years professional experience not listed may be selected in next month's Rule 5 draft. The two expansion entries can select up to five players who don't have to remain on their major-league roster all season or be offered back to their original teams. Each team can lose no more than one player to this exemption.
The Orioles listed 37 names, leaving room for free-agent signings that could include closer Randy Myers, center fielder Brady Anderson, designated hitter Paul Molitor or another starting pitcher, whether a free agent such as Darryl Kile or Willie Blair or a trade acquisition such as the Florida Marlins' Al Leiter.
The roster consists of 19 pitchers, seven infielders, three catchers and eight outfielders. Included are right-handers Everett Stull, the player to be named in the trade that sent last year's Rule 5 draftee, Mike Johnson, to Montreal, and Steve Montgomery, who was 10-5 at Double-A Bowie and won five of his first six starts with a 2.68 ERA for Peoria of the Arizona Fall League.
Also included are promising young pitchers Nerio Rodriguez, Julio Moreno, Chris Fussell, Sidney Ponson and Billy Percibal, and Rocky Coppinger, who was the Orioles' No. 4 starter before his season was ruined by elbow and shoulder injuries.
Among the minor-leaguers not on the roster are reliever Matt Snyder, who saved 19 games at Bowie, infielder David Lamb, who hit .331 at Bowie, and Rochester first baseman Tommy Davis, who batted .304 with 15 home runs. Bowie catcher Jim Foster (.275), whom the Orioles considered calling up late in the season, also isn't included.
Farm director Syd Thrift said it was difficult setting the roster at 37. "We just didn't have any more space," he said. "It's a great problem to have, though, and what we want to do is keep on making it greater. That's the idea.
"You're never sure who's going to be selected. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. You don't know who other people like. Sometimes, you've got a good clue."
Free agent Scott Kamieniecki, who moved into the spot vacated by Coppinger and won 10 games, remains hopeful of re-signing with the club, but said "we haven't talked since last week maybe, right around when Ray Miller was named manager."
Coming off two injury-filled seasons with the New York Yankees, Kamieniecki went 10-6 with a 4.01 ERA in 30 starts. He threw eight shutout innings in two appearances against the Cleveland Indians in the AL Championship Series, winning Game 5.
"They said that they wanted me back. Ray said he wanted me back. But it's something we've got to work out," Kamieniecki, 33, said from his Michigan home. "They haven't thrown money figures or years or anything like that at me."
Kamieniecki said he received interest from 15 to 18 teams before the expansion draft. He expects to resolve his status by no later than the middle of next month.
"If something hasn't been completed by then, we're doing something wrong," he said. "We're not going to let it go past Christmas. We definitely want to get it done in the next two or three weeks.
"I hope I'll be back [with the Orioles]. I want to come back there, that's for sure. It was a great situation for me."
Meanwhile, the completion of Miller's coaching staff will come early next week with the expected hirings of former Oriole Eddie Murray and longtime Dominican scout Carlos Bernhardt. Murray, who completed his 21st major-league season, will replace first-base coach John Stearns.
O's 40-man roster
(Roster is at 37 pending acquisitions)
B. J. Surhoff
Pub Date: 11/21/97