J. Lopez flashes welcome sign to Hernandez


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- If displaced catcher Javy Lopez had any animosity toward Ramon Hernandez for taking his starting position, he certainly hid it well on the first day of workouts for Orioles pitchers and catchers.

One of Lopez's first orders of business after arriving at Fort Lauderdale Stadium yesterday morning for his physical was to walk over to Hernandez's locker and greet the Orioles' new catcher, who was signed to a four-year, $27.5 million deal in December.

The two spoke for several minutes and Hernandez admitted later that the conversation helped to ease anxiety he had about his reception by Lopez, who has discussed his frustration with the Orioles' decision to sign another catcher.

"He's a guy who has plenty of more years [than me], so you've got to wait when he decides to say hi," said Hernandez. "You've got to respect that. When he came over to me, it was exciting. When you have a guy like that who wants to help, that's great.

"To be with him on the same team, I'm lucky for that. Hopefully I'm going to ask him a lot of questions, try and get better as a player and ... as a catcher."

Hernandez spent much of the down time yesterday traveling around the locker room and getting to know the Orioles, especially the starting pitchers. Like he did in his introductory news conference, he said there is plenty of room on the Orioles for both he and Lopez.

"We don't want to fight for a spot," said Hernandez. "We both know whoever's playing, we've got to do our best. We don't look at it like I'm trying to get your spot. ... Whatever I have to do to help this team win, I'm going to do it. We're trying to win and get to the World Series."

Roberts: no arbitration

Not wanting to cause any hard feelings with one of their best and most popular players, the Orioles avoided salary arbitration with All-Star second baseman Brian Roberts yesterday, signing him to a one-year, $3.075 million contract with incentives if he reaches 600 plate appearances.

Roberts, the last of a league-high nine salary-arbitration Orioles to have his contract resolved, was seeking $3.6 million. The Orioles countered with a $2.4 million offer to the leadoff hitter, who made $415,000 last season.

"We're happy to get it resolved," said Orioles vice president Jim Duquette. "What he means to the ballclub, to the organization and to the fan base, all those things were factored in. Both sides made a conscious effort to get it done."

Roberts had a breakout 2005 season, hitting .314 with 18 home runs and 73 RBIs before suffering a season-ending elbow injury. He had ligament-transplant surgery on Sept. 30, and is projected to be ready by Opening Day.

Of the nine players eligible for salary arbitration, the Orioles reached settlements with eight of them and won their only arbitration case with starter Rodrigo Lopez.

O's pursue Hidalgo

The Orioles have offered free-agent outfielder Richard Hidalgo a minor league deal laden with incentives, and are awaiting word on whether he'll accept.

Hidalgo could make his decision as early as today. The 30-year-old hit .221 last season with 16 homers and 43 RBIs in 308 at-bats for the Texas Rangers.

The right-handed-hitting outfielder, who is known for his outfield arm, hit 25 or more homers in two previous seasons and had a career-high 44 homers in 2000. If he signs, he could contend for the starting left-field spot.

Around the horn

Reliever John Parrish, who had ligament-transplant surgery on July 15, is hoping to start throwing from the mound on March 1. ... Reliever Andy Mitchell, who went 8-0 for Triple-A Ottawa last year, was invited to camp as a nonroster player. Mitchell and Eddy Rodriguez, who is having visa problems, were the only two pitchers and catchers not to take part in the first workout. ... Manager Sam Perlozzo said he tried to talk owner Peter Angelos into easing the club's facial hair policy, but was unsuccessful.


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