The choice came down to carrying a third catcher who would offer protection and expand manager Ray Miller's late-inning options, or keeping an extra infielder who didn't hit and hardly played. The Orioles went with the obvious yesterday, recalling Charlie Greene from Triple-A Rochester and giving veteran Ozzie Guillen his unconditional release.
Greene reported to Camden Yards yesterday and was in uniform for last night's game against Minnesota, backing up catchers Chris Hoiles and Lenny Webster. Guillen, signed to a minor-league contract over the winter, cleaned out his locker and pondered his future.
Guillen, 34, said he saw the move coming for weeks and wasn't surprised when given the news after Thursday's game in Chicago, where he had started at shortstop for 13 seasons before joining the Orioles.
"When you've been in the game as long as I have, you just know," he said. "I had a feeling for a long time it was going to happen. I'm disappointed because I wanted to play here all year, but I couldn't. I think I played good for them here. I don't have any regrets. It's just part of the game."
Guillen was signed, in part, because of questions about second baseman Roberto Alomar's early-season availability after shoulder surgery. But Alomar has been a mainstay in the lineup, infielder Jeff Reboulet has made the most of his limited opportunities, and Guillen mostly has been glued to the bench.
He appeared in only 12 games, including three starts, batting .063 (1-for-16) with two runs scored. He was 0-for-6 as a pinch hitter.
Miller sensed that Guillen had some trouble adjusting to a part-time role, but also said the veteran created his own problems at the plate. The club tried to convince Guillen to be more selective, but he still swung too often at the first pitch, as he did in his final at-bat as an Oriole Wednesday in Chicago, popping up in the ninth.
"On the minus side for me, we tried like heck to get him to work counts, but that's his nature," Miller said. "It's a two-fold thing. I'm not getting him any playing time and I've got two catchers who need some help physically. And I've got my biggest secret weapon sitting on the bench who never gets in a ballgame, Jeff Reboulet. He's like Eric [Davis]. When he plays, good things happen."
The roster change enables Miller to better protect Webster's sore right elbow and gives him the chance to use Hoiles more as a designated hitter without being caught short behind the plate. That would allow Miller to bolster his bench by having Harold Baines available more for pinch-hitting duty. Guillen's release also demonstrates Miller's faith in P. J. Forbes and Mitch Simons, two infielders at Triple-A Rochester.
The Orioles offered Guillen, who cleared waivers Thursday, a chance to serve as a player/coach at Rochester, but he declined. Asked if he would continue playing, Guillen said, "No doubt about it. A couple teams are interested."
The Orioles are obligated to pay Guillen's $450,000 salary. If another team signs him, it would pay the pro-rated major-league minimum, with the Orioles picking up the rest.
Miller said Guillen took the news "very good, very professional. I was going to do it after the game [Thursday] in respect for him. He said he didn't mind talking to the press, but didn't like the idea of having it happen in Chicago. He wished us luck against everybody except the team he plays for."
Greene was in five games with the Orioles last season after being claimed off waivers. He was batting .200 (8-for-40) at Rochester with one homer and six RBIs, and had thrown out five of 18 base stealers.
"I'm definitely excited," he said. "I was seeing the ball a lot better. I hit it hard the last three times. If I get an opportunity, hopefully I'll show what I can do."
Pub Date: 5/02/98