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O's Stay in Pursuit of Delgado

Team Signs 5 Players, Avoids Arbitration With 4 Others

By Jorge Arangure Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 19, 2005; Page D10

BALTIMORE, Jan. 18 -- With no apparent conclusion to their pursuit of Carlos Delgado, the Baltimore Orioles continued to tinker with their roster, signing five players to minor league deals and reaching deals with four of their own players.

Negotiations for Delgado continue to progress slowly. The sides talked briefly on Tuesday, but did not set up a meeting.

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"We're going to continue to talk and monitor it and see how it works," Orioles Executive Vice President Jim Beattie said.

Agent David Sloane met with the Florida Marlins on Tuesday and said in an e-mail he expected to continue to talk to four teams (the Orioles, Marlins, Texas Rangers and New York Mets) pursuing Delgado again this week. A meeting with the Rangers is scheduled for Thursday.

The Orioles avoided arbitration with Rodrigo Lopez, Luis Matos, Jerry Hairston and B.J. Ryan, signing all of them to one-year deals on the day of the deadline to submit salary figures. The team has yet to reach a deal with Jorge Julio and John Parrish, meaning their salaries could be determined next month by a panel of three arbitrators unless a settlement is agreed upon. The Orioles have never lost an arbitration case under owner Peter Angelos.

"It's a process," Beattie said. "You try to avoid [arbitration] if you can."

Hairston, a Gold Glove-caliber second baseman who will earn $1.8 million, will likely enter spring training as the leading candidate to start in center field. Ryan, the team's best reliever and the favorite to win the closer job, will make $2.6 million. Lopez, who agreed to a $2.375 million deal, will be a top two starter and Matos will compete for an outfield job.

Baltimore also signed free agent pitcher Jay Witasick, infielders Enrique Wilson and Chris Stynes, outfielder Midre Cummings and catcher Keith McDonald to minor league deals.

Witasick, a Baltimore native and graduate of C. Milton Wright High School in Bel Air, Md., is a leading candidate for a spot in the bullpen. Last season with San Diego, Witasick had a 3.21 ERA in 61 2/3 innings.

"We're trying to find more experience and some right-handed relief help," Beattie said. "It could be something that works out for both of us."

Witasick joins fellow free agent signee Steve Kline, a left-hander, in a revamped bullpen that may have at least another addition. Tony Saunders, a Baltimore native who retired after the 1999 season because of a broken left pitching arm, is scheduled to take a physical Wednesday and will likely be signed to a minor league deal.

"We will continue to see what's out there," Beattie said.

With Chris Gomez and David Newhan, Wilson's signing was a bit of a surprise. But Wilson, who batted .213 in 2004, has playoff experience and entered last season as the New York Yankees' starting second baseman.

"You never know," Beattie said. "It gives us more depth. It could come down to who we decide to carry on the club."

Cummings, Stynes and McDonald will likely play for Class AAA Ottawa.

Orioles Notes: The team's first workout was moved to Feb. 20, a day earlier than first scheduled. The first mandatory workout for position players will be Feb. 24.

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