Johnson turns from pay to play; Catcher disappointed by ruling, but moves on; pitcher Burrows impresses


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- One day after learning that he had lost his salary arbitration case, Orioles catcher Charles Johnson said he was disappointed in the outcome but prepared to shift his focus to baseball.

Johnson had been seeking $5.1 million after earning $3.3 million last year, when he hit .218 with the Florida Marlins and Los Angeles Dodgers. The Orioles countered with a $3.6 million offer, which a three-judge panel determined Saturday will be Johnson's salary for the coming season.

Appearing to work in Johnson's favor were 19 home runs, which tied a career high, a fourth consecutive Gold Glove and the arbitration record of his agent, Scott Boras, who rarely loses such cases.

"I feel like my agent and his staff did a great job with the case. They really came out and presented a very good case for me," said Johnson, 27, who was one of the last players remaining in the clubhouse at Fort Lauderdale Stadium after spending time in the batting cage with hitting coach Terry Crowley after the workout.

"With the evidence, I thought I had a very good chance of winning. It's very disappointing for me to go out and win a Gold Glove and hit 19 home runs and have almost 60 RBIs and get a $300,000 raise. It's very difficult, but that's the process. You win some, you lose some."

The hearing took place on Thursday, but Johnson had to wait until Saturday night for the verdict. He alluded to being unhappy with the delay, saying, "The only thing that was very upsetting to me about the case was the way the commissioner's office handled it. I'm not going to get into it, though. I really don't want to talk about it anymore. I'll talk about anything that's baseball, but this is kind of in the past."

Burrows percolating

Pitcher Terry Burrows has gotten his cup of coffee in the majors. At three stops. And after spending last season at Triple-A Rochester, he'd like to take another sip.

Burrows received a spring invite from the Orioles after going 9-6 with the Red Wings and leading the International League with a 2.92 ERA. He's already been noticed, drawing praise from Ray Miller after Friday's initial workout and again yesterday.

"You look at Burrows, he looks like a pitcher. He has a good changeup. He continues to impress me," Miller said.

For a club without a left-handed starter penciled into the rotation, and with questions lingering about Scott Kamieniecki's return from disk surgery, Burrows has a chance to force his way into the club's plans. And that could mean more than just a sip.

"Every spring training seems to create one or two spots somewhere," said Burrows, who held opposing batters to a .214 average last season, though they hit .328 against him in the first inning.

"When you're in my position, you're always hoping there's a spot. Obviously there are a lot of established guys here."

As for Miller's praise, Burrows said, "Any light at the end of the tunnel, or any light anywhere, is good. But it's early. The real test will come when we get to the games and I've got to get people out."

Burrows spent parts of the 1994 and 1995 seasons with the Texas Rangers, a month with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1996 and a month with the San Diego Padres in 1997. He had arthroscopic surgery in October 1995 to repair a slight tear in his left rotator cuff.

Moreno ready to go

One of the pitchers taking part in yesterday's workout, Julio Moreno, was all but forgotten last year. He had been rated among the organization's top prospects and was expected to start at Triple-A Rochester, with a late call-up possible, until he missed all of last season with a strained right shoulder.

Moreno, 23, was injured while lifting weights here and said his routines now are confined to the lower body. "I feel good," he said. "I rested the whole year. It was hard to do. But everything is normal now. I'm happy."

Moreno was rated the Orioles' fifth-best prospect by Baseball America in 1997, when he pitched for Double-A Bowie before joining Rochester for the International League playoffs. His stock rose after winning two playoff games for the Red Wings.

If all goes well, Moreno could begin this season at Rochester.

"It's nice to see Julio, who probably was our best arm down here a couple years ago. It looks like he's healthy and throwing well," Miller said.

Blood taking it slow

Pitcher Darin Blood, acquired from the San Francisco Giants in a July trade for outfielder Joe Carter, has been restricted to long tossing after having arthroscopic surgery on Jan. 6 to remove bone spurs from his right elbow.

Blood went 3-2 with a 2.48 ERA at Rochester, and was 1-2 with a 6.04 ERA in eight starts for Mayaguez of the Puerto Rican League when he had to shut down because of pain in the elbow.

"I'm trying to get back as soon as possible," he said. "It feels good. I've been ahead of schedule in my rehab. It's progressing well."

Coppinger throwing well

Miller was impressed with Rocky Coppinger, who pitched at Bowie and Rochester last season before a September call-up.

"That was the best I've seen Rocky throw in three years," he said.

Coppinger has an outside chance of making the club. He's lumped in with a group that includes Burrows, Chris Fussell and veteran Doug Linton.

Pub Date: 2/22/99

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