Hernandez isn't signed after failed O's physical; Reliever's problems create club's need to sign Slocumb


As Orioles general manager Frank Wren continues to retool the Orioles' bullpen, he remains uncertain whether Xavier Hernandez will be one of the components.

Last month, Hernandez, a free agent, agreed to a two-year, $2.5 million deal with a club option for 2001. But Wren confirmed last night that a contract never was signed because Hernandez failed his physical.

Still in need of a right-handed setup man, the Orioles agreed to terms Friday with free agent Heathcliff Slocumb on a one-year deal. And Wren said additional bullpen moves could be forthcoming.

Wren also said the door "is not closed" concerning Hernandez, who may be invited to spring training with a non-guaranteed contract. Otherwise, Wren said he's not at liberty to comment further on the pitcher, who has an arm injury, according to one source.

Hernandez, 33, made 46 relief appearances for the Texas Rangers last year, going 6-6 with one save and a 3.57 ERA. He's pitched for five clubs since breaking into the majors with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1989, including two stops with the Houston Astros.

His arrival in Baltimore was supposed to counter the loss of free-agent right-hander Alan Mills, who signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"It's club policy for all free agents to undergo a physical examination before their contract is signed," said spokesman John Maroon, "and Xavier Hernandez failed that examination. We don't know whether he'll be in our camp."

To make room on the roster for Hernandez in December, the Orioles released outfielder Willie Greene, who has drawn interest from his former club, Cincinnati.

Pub Date: 1/17/99

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