The Baltimore Orioles, hoping that a lot of small moves will equal one big one, acquired right-hander Jay Tibbs from the Montreal Expos for three minor leaguers yesterday.
The club also announced it had extended a make-good spring training invitation to Tippy Martinez, the franchise's all-time leader in saves who was released last June 4 because of shoulder problems.
Until yesterday, Martinez was calling the Orioles' offer "my last chance." Then the Minnesota Twins phoned and said they, too, might be interested. Now, Martinez, 37, will have a tryout with the Twins today, then see what they have to offer.
If it's any kind of offer at all, it's likely to be better than the one he has from the Orioles, who appear to be extending an invitation out of courtesy. Orioles personnel have seen him throw dozens of times at Memorial Stadium this winter and invited him only when they found he didn't have another offer.
His chances don't appear good. His velocity is in the low 80-mph range and his once unhittable curveball hasn't regained its bite. He hasn't pitched in a major league game since July 13, 1986.
Tibbs, 26, will be one of 21 pitchers arriving Friday in Miami. Since the end of last season, when they had one of the major leagues' highest ERA in 26 years, the Orioles have been unable to make a blockbuster trade, but they've made several small ones, getting pitchers Jose Bautista, Doug Sisk and Mike Morgan. At the end of last season, they traded Mike Flanagan to Montreal for youngsters Oswald Peraza and Jose Mesa.
"You bring in as many good arms and hope something works out," Orioles General Manager Roland Hemond said. "The competition is going to be good, and if some of the young kids have to go back to Rochester they'll have time to develop."
Tibbs is the latest and, because he has major league experience and a 90-mph fastball, becomes a front-runner to earn a spot in the starting rotation. Only Mike Boddicker and Morgan are assured of spots in the rotation.
In addition to Tibbs, the Expos gave up minor league pitcher Alfredo Cardwood, who was 10-2 at Class A West Palm Beach last year. In exchange, the Orioles gave up pitchers John Hoover, Doug Cinnella and Rick Carriger.
Tibbs was 4-5 with a 4.99 ERA for the Expos last season and was shuffled between the bullpen and the rotation. He also spent time at Class AAA Indianapolis. He was the New York Mets' first-round pick in 1980, was drafted by Philadelphia in late 1983 and returned to the Mets a few months later, was traded to Cincinnati in 1984 and to Montreal in late 1985.
At 21, he was with the Reds. At 23, also with Cincinnati, he threw 216 innings and went 10-16 (1985). His problem has been consistency. He has four pitches -- a fastball, curveball, slider and change-up -- and his stuff is good enough to tease scouts. But he has never been able to put all the parts together.
"You always think that when a pitcher gets to be about 26 he's just coming into his own," Hemond said. "We think he'll give it a good battle. Sometimes it all turns around when a guy learns to use his stuff properly. His arm is certainly good enough."
Tibbs had asked the Expos to trade him last summer and said he considered the move good news.
"I'm very excited," he said from his home in Birmingham. "This is something I've been hoping for. I feel I'm going to get the opportunity I've needed."
Hoover, 25, starred on the United States' 1984 Olympic team and was the Orioles' first-round draft pick that year. He pitched five games at Class AAA Rochester in 1984, but since then has bounced through the system and spent six weeks on the disabled list with arm problems in 1986.
He appeared to get straightened out last season when he went 9-8 at Class AA Charlotte. He was on his way to Miami when the trade was announced. When he checks in, he'll be told that his new headquarters is 65 miles up I-95.