Marlins owner steps up criticism of Cuba trip; Henry says timing, team are wrong for exchange; losses wearing on Miller

THE BALTIMORE SUN

JUPITER, Fla. -- Criticism by Florida Marlins owner John Henry of the Orioles' upcoming exhibition in Havana against a Cuban all-star team didn't stop Wednesday when he lent support to a group of demonstrators at Fort Lauderdale Stadium.

In yesterday's editions of the Sun-Sentinel of South Florida, Henry denounced the "people-to-people" exchange for its improper timing and insinuated that the Orioles are guilty of opportunism.

Citing his team's close ties to South Florida's Latin community, Henry insisted the Marlins should have been the first team allowed to visit Cuba -- and only after diplomatic relations improved.

"You don't see the Boston Red Sox going to Mexico," Henry was quoted as saying. "You see the Padres opening up the Mexican market. The Padres are playing the Rockies in Mexico on Opening Day. Next year, Seattle may go to Japan on Opening Day. That's a right team for that.

"The Marlins would be the team to go [to Cuba] if that was the right thing to do. But it's not the right thing."

Henry said Wednesday that issues between the two countries "transcend" a home-and-home series. "I don't see one game of baseball helping anything," he said.

Introducing a new element into the controversy, Henry alleged that many within the industry believe the Orioles are masquerading a scouting mission as something more altruistic.

"We believe the reason for the trip is to gain a competitive advantage. If you talk with the people in baseball, a lot of them think this. There is no draft of players out of there. So they're going to be influenced by something like this," he said.

Orioles majority owner Peter Angelos has declined to respond to Henry's criticism.

Henry's Marlins' clubhouse includes a number of players born in Cuba or born to Cuban exiles, several of whom have spoken out against the exchange.

Meanwhile, in Havana yesterday, Cuba named a 27-man squad to face the Orioles. Cuban sports chiefs picked a mixture of young and experienced players to face the Orioles at Havana's Latin American Stadium on March 28, but left out several stars still involved in the local playoffs.

Speaking on the record

Maybe spring training records don't mean a thing, but manager Ray Miller wasn't dismissing his club's 1-6 stretch before last night.

"It's only bothersome to me because I don't want the public to think the bullpen's that bad, or whatever," he said. "The bottom line is we haven't really done anything offensively from the sixth inning on the last 10 days, it seems like. None of the kids has done anything offensively, put anything together. Our guys [regulars] have been playing pretty well."

Though he intends to start playing his regulars deeper into games, Miller also wants to see more of catchers Tommy Davis and Julio Vinas, who had combined for only seven at-bats before last night. Davis was added to the spring roster after a good showing in the early minor-league camp.

Vinas hit for Sidney Ponson in the fifth and grounded to short. Davis led off the ninth with a double.

More cuts are coming

Club officials probably will meet again Wednesday for the next round of cuts. Forty players remain in camp: 17 pitchers, four catchers and 19 infielders/outfielders.

"I'm sure we'll let a few pitchers go," Miller said.

Turf king aces mound, too

Two years ago, David Evans was out of baseball and in another line of work, starting a company back home in Houston that installed synthetic putting greens. The business still exists and is doing well, but its owner hasn't been around much.

Evans, 31, has been one of the Orioles' most effective pitchers this spring, not allowing a run in four appearances covering six innings.

This begs the question: Just who is this guy?

Evans never has pitched in the majors. He was released by Pittsburgh last summer shortly after being promoted to Triple-A Nashville and signed a minor-league contract with the Orioles on Aug. 10. Assigned to Double-A Bowie, he went 1-1 with a 1.96 ERA in 14 games, walking six and striking out 26. In his last 10 appearances, he allowed just one earned run and struck out 23 in 15 1/3 innings.

His momentum didn't slow over the winter. Pitching in Venezuela, Evans went 3-2 with seven saves and a 1.38 ERA in 32 2/3 innings.

"I'm real happy with the way things are going and getting the opportunity to throw," said Evans, a spring training invitee who pitched a scoreless seventh inning last night after throwing two on Tuesday. "My deal was to come in and try to get some good quality innings in front of the staff and hopefully do well. That way they could put a name with the face and I could make a good impression on them, so if they need some help during the season, maybe I'd be the one they'd call."

Though he had earned a longer look in camp, Evans was uneasy on Monday when the first cuts were announced.

"I knew I was pitching well, but I was a little worried about it. I wasn't sure I was staying," he said.

His insecurities are understandable. Evans believed he was in good standing with the Pirates before getting released, and he had spent the 1997 season laying turf after receiving some poor advice from his former agents.

Evans was a free agent that year, with at least five clubs interested in signing him. He was told to wait for a good offer, and an entire season passed. At his age, he couldn't afford such a break.

"That was really tough for me. From a baseball standpoint, it definitely didn't help me," he said.

"I felt that maybe I was done with baseball. I didn't know that with [his agents], I was a real low man on the totem pole. I talked to a couple friends from Houston, [pitchers] Billy Wagner and Chris Holt, and they told me I should get back into it. I called another agent I had met and he couldn't believe I hadn't played. Two days later, I had offers from three teams."

Right now, he's making quite an impression on one.

Pub Date: 3/20/99

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