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Kamieniecki option play a hit for O's 10-game winner stays, signing 2-year deal with option for a third; 'In some ways, he was MVP'; 3-hour Anderson talks bring no movement

Less than a week after saying there was a "50-50 chance" he would remain with the Orioles, pitcher Scott Kamieniecki re-signed with the club for two years at $6.2 million plus an option for a third, solidifying a rotation that still has room for another addition.

For now, Kamieniecki, 33, is pegged as the fourth starter behind Mike Mussina, Scott Erickson and Jimmy Key, but could be bumped to the fifth slot if the Orioles sign another free agent or make a trade. They remain in the running for Willie Blair, an eight-year veteran who pitched for Detroit last year.

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Meanwhile, representatives for free-agent center fielder Brady Anderson met with Orioles majority owner Peter Angelos yesterday for about three hours, but left town with little evidence of progress.

Signed by the Orioles to a minor-league contract before last season, Kamieniecki found a place in the rotation replacing the injured Rocky Coppinger and the ineffective Shawn Boskie and went 10-6 with a 4.01 ERA. He matched his career high in wins and set career highs in starts (30) and strikeouts (109). He would have won more games if the Orioles hadn't scored three runs or fewer in 13 of his starts.

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He received a $500,000 signing bonus and will earn a base salary of $2.6 million next season and $3.1 million in 1999. A $3.2 million vesting option kicks in if Kamieniecki pitches a combined 325 innings in 1998 and 1999, or 175 innings in 1999. Two years removed from elbow surgery, he worked 179 1/3 innings last year.

The Michigan native, who made $1,535,000 last season, had sought a three-year deal and attracted early interest from 16 teams, including the Cleveland Indians and both expansion entries, but said all along that his preference was to stay in Baltimore.

"We're really glad to have Scott back," said Orioles general manager Pat Gillick. "He did such a great job for us this year that in some ways he was our MVP."

"We had a lot of different heroes last year," said assistant GM Kevin Malone, "and in some ways he was probably the unsung hero. He contributed a lot and really didn't get a lot of recognition. He very easily could have won 15 games.

"I just felt like he was extremely valuable to us because of what he contributed last year and what we think he's going to contribute in the future. His work habits, his makeup, his approach to the game, his mental toughness and poise -- everything he brings to the table was a positive.

"He had three-year offers out there. That's what we were told. But he wanted to come back here. He feels like he'll earn that third year by the way he pitches in '98 and '99."

Kamieniecki did not return phone calls yesterday.

Kamieniecki, who didn't allow a run over eight innings in two Orioles' American League Championship Series appearances, had spent 10 years in the New York Yankees' organization before coming to Baltimore last season. He was limited to five starts and 22 2/3 innings in 1996 after having bone chips removed from his right elbow.

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Malone said the Orioles have spoken numerous times with club orthopedic physician Dr. Michael Jacobs, who assured them Kamieniecki is sound.

"We know we can't expect to get nine innings out of him for 30 starts," Malone said, "but we know what his capabilities are and how to use him. There are no guarantees with him, Mussina, anybody, but our doctors have given us the green light that he's healthy and to go forward."

As for the club's ability to sign Blair, who won a career-high 16 games last season, Malone said the process is made more difficult by some of the recent contracts handed out by other clubs. The expansion Arizona Diamondbacks, who projected Kamieniecki as their No. 3 starter, shocked and angered many within the industry by signing shortstop Jay Bell to a five-year, $34 million deal.

The other expansion team, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, this week signed left-hander Wilson Alvarez to a five-year, $35 million deal, diminishing their interest in Kamieniecki. The Colorado Rockies shook up the market further by giving free-agent right-hander Darryl Kile $24 million over three years.

"This market is very volatile," Malone said. "The economics of some of the signings that have already taken place and what it's done to the market is going to be a hindrance as to us maybe signing somebody else."

The Orioles have until tomorrow to decide whether to offer arbitration to their remaining free agents: Anderson, Harold Baines and Jerome Walton. By offering arbitration, they are assured compensation should a free agent go elsewhere and retain negotiating rights until Jan. 8.

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Agents Dennis Gilbert and Jeff Borris met for about three hours ** with Angelos in Baltimore to discuss Anderson's situation. Anderson representatives pressed for a five-year deal or a four-year package worth approximately $7 million a season.

Lacking any outside competition, Angelos apparently budged little from his standing offer of four years and $25 million. No future talks were scheduled, but the club will offer Anderson arbitration.

NOTES: Third baseman Ryan Minor has been named the Orioles' Minor League Player of the Year, and right-hander Steve Montgomery was chosen their Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Minor, 23, was named the South Atlantic League's Most Outstanding Major League Prospect after batting .307 with 42 doubles, 24 homers and 97 RBIs at Single-A Delmarva. Montgomery, 23, spent most of the year at Double-A Bowie, where he was 10-5 with a 3.10 ERA. He also made two appearances at Triple-A Rochester, then went 5-1 with a 2.54 ERA for Peoria in the Arizona Fall League.

"Ryan and Steve winning these awards demonstrates the development of our farm system over the last few years," said farm director Syd Thrift. "In addition, it is indicative of the fact that we are combining strong amateur drafts with the ability to acquire talent from various independent and professional leagues around the country. "

In addition, the Orioles' Double-A affiliate, the Bowie Baysox, have won the Bob Freitas Award from Baseball America for the top operation in their classification. A club must be in at least its fifth year to qualify for the honor. The Baysox won in their first year of eligibility.

Pub Date: 12/06/97


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