Zaun wants to play for time

The Baltimore Sun

Veteran catcher Gregg Zaun understands he is being viewed as a teacher in shinguards, a big-league mentor to his eventual replacement, top prospect Matt Wieters.

Yet Zaun is hoping he provides the Orioles with a reason to give Wieters as much minor league seasoning as possible.

"I know going in, no matter how well I play, I could see a significant less amount of playing time when [Wieters] gets here, and I understand that," said Zaun, moments before leaving Baltimore yesterday after completing his club physical.

"But I am also hoping I play well enough to make that decision hard for them. I don't think they'd want me if I didn't feel that way."

Barring an unforeseen complication with the physical, the Orioles are expected to announce today the signing of Zaun to a one-year, $1.5 million contract with a $2 million option ($500,000 buyout) for 2010.

To make room for Zaun on the 40-man roster, the Orioles must designate a player for assignment today. A club source indicated the most likely candidate is infielder Oscar Salazar.

Zaun, 37, will be in his second stint with the Orioles. The nephew of former Oriole Rick Dempsey, Zaun was drafted by the organization in the 17th round in 1989 and debuted with the club in 1995 before being traded the next year to the Florida Marlins.

"It has an allure, because it is comfortable, the city of Baltimore," said Zaun, a career .251 hitter in 16 big league seasons, the past five with the Toronto Blue Jays. "Familiar faces around the ballpark, the people you don't read about in the newspaper ... I have a lot of pleasant memories of those people, my time with them and the city."

Zaun will be in a different role this time around. Now, he is the veteran experienced in handling a pitching staff. And he's expected to share that knowledge with Wieters, Baseball America's 2008 Minor League Player of the Year.

The two haven't met, but they will Feb. 15, when pitchers and catchers have their first workout in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Wieters is expected to start the season at Triple-A Norfolk, but he could soon play his way into a big league promotion.

"Going in, he has to know if he has a question for me he has to ask the question," Zaun said. "I'll play as much a role in his development from here on out that he wants me to as long as he is a good person."

Scott to get raise

The Orioles agreed to a $2.4 million deal with outfielder Luke Scott, avoiding the need to exchange arbitration numbers before yesterday's deadline.

Scott, who made $430,000 in 2008, batted .257 with 23 homers in 148 games for the Orioles last year.

The club basically has one arbitration-eligible player remaining.

Closer George Sherrill, who saved 31 games and had a 4.73 ERA in 2008, is asking for $3.4 million, up from $900,000. The Orioles have countered with $2.2 million.

If they cannot agree to terms, an arbitrator will choose one or the other. The Orioles have gone to arbitration nine times since 1994 and are 8-1 in those cases. The club is 6-0 when led by general counsel H. Russell Smouse.

Fort Myers an option

The Orioles have met recently with government officials in Fort Myers, Fla., to discuss potentially relocating their spring training camp to City of Palms Park, where the Boston Red Sox play.

The Red Sox will move into a new facility in Lee County in 2012, which would leave their old ballpark vacant.

The Orioles are also considering Sarasota and Vero Beach if they depart Fort Lauderdale after this spring. It doesn't appear the Orioles are significantly close to a deal with any of the cities.

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