What was already an odd story grew a little odder today when infielder Jackie Gutierrez arrived at Miami Stadium, changed from street clothes into a Baltimore Orioles uniform and took 45 minutes of infield and batting practice.
Later, he met with reporters and, looking and sounding fit, said he was happy to be the newest Oriole.
"I'm just happy to be here," he said. "I hope to help the team."
Oddly, Gutierrez arrived in camp about three hours before Orioles General Manager Hank Peters flew to Dallas, where he planned to meet with American League President Bobby Brown and have the offseason trade with the Boston Red Sox for Gutierrez restructured or voided.
After hearing reports of his erratic behavior this winter, the Orioles had Gutierrez flown last week to Baltimore, where he was examined by doctors. The Orioles won't comment publicly on what the examination found, but sources said they don't believe he's fit to play this season.
For that reason, Peters and owner Edward Bennett Williams wanted to meet with Brown and tell him that the Gutierrez-for-Sammy Stewart trade should be voided or the Red Sox should give the Orioles another player.
When Gutierrez's exams were finished Tuesday, he was free to leave, and he decided he wanted to be at Miami Stadium.
"He's here, and he's going to be treated the same as any other player," Peters said.
Is he here to stay?
Is he fit?
Meanwhile, the Red Sox said they knew nothing of Gutierrez's problems when they made the trade and that they don't think the deal should be changed.
As Gutierrez arrived, the Orioles announced he had completed his examination in Baltimore, but had a couple more physical tests to take in Miami. (One of those occurred this afternoon.)
"I just wanted to get out on the field a little while," Gutierrez said of his early arrival. "It feels okay. That's why I decided to come today."
He began an interview by saying he would discuss only baseball, which he did by saying he didn't mind moving from shortstop to third and that he would even play second if Manager Earl Weaver asked.
But Gutierrez also talked about his troubled winter, a winter that actually began last May 25, when he suffered a knee injury in a game at Texas.
That injury led to his losing his job to Glenn Hoffman, and when Gutierrez did play after that, he played badly, committing 23 errors and hitting .218 (45 points lower than he hit in 1984).
He then went to winter ball and was released from two teams because, sources said, his behavior was erratic.
"When I hurt my knee last year, everything changed in my game," he said. "I'm just happy to be able to play now."
The Orioles intend to tell Brown there was evidence Gutierrez had suffered a nervous breakdown before the trade with Boston was completed in mid-December. Gutierrez refused to talk specifics, but did say he was under tremendous pressure last season.
He won the Red Sox starting shortstop job in 1984 and became a national hero in Colombia. He is only the third native Colombian to play in the big leagues, and both his father Campo and brother Freddie competed in the Olympics for Colombia.
That he made the big leagues was such big news that Colombian newspapers ran daily Gutierrez updates, and when he began to play badly, they reported that, too.
"A lot of people put pressure on you because you're from Colombia," he said. "Everybody in my family played sports."
He said he wasn't worried about the trade being voided, saying: "I'm not going nowhere else. I'm going to get everything together."
Of the exams, he said: "They had to check me out. I wanted to get everything on the table."
Gutierrez said he would be happy to play third base if that's what the Orioles want him to do.
"They said they were going to move me around: second, third, whatever," he said. "Earl said he had a decision to make. I've spent a lot of time playing short -- about my whole career. I'm happy because I'm going to get a chance to play."
He said he was in shape, although "I stopped playing in December. After that, I went home and did some running at my house."
After arriving in Dallas, Peters said any announcement on the trade would come from the American League office.
Regulars have their first workout Thursday, and as some arrived today, there were more signs of offseason work. Outfielder Jim Dwyer showed up carrying an extra 10 pounds, much of it in his arms and chest, thanks to a winter of weight work. "It's the hardest I've ever hit the weights," he said. "I feel a lot stronger. Now I'll see what it means on the field." A day earlier, center fielder Fred Lynn came in and, like Dwyer, is heavier (by four pounds) with much of it concentrated in the upper body. Lynn said he hit the weights harder than usual "because Earl wants home runs."
After a second day of pitchers playing pitchers in an intrasquad game, Weaver complimented nonroster rookie Jeff Ballard, 22. "He did the things Storm Davis did the first time he was in here," Weaver said. "He goes out there and zip, zoom, zip, gets out of an inning. I know this, I'm seeing some pretty good arms."
The Orioles will resume work on fundamentals and hitting Thursday, then will play intrasquad games three days next week before the exhibition season begins March 8 in Fort Lauderdale vs. the New York Yankees . . . Weaver has said he'll use designated hitter Larry Sheets as a catcher some this spring, and seeing Weaver for the first time yesterday, Sheets shook his hand and said: "I brought my catcher's mitt." Weaver smiled and said: "Now, that's the attitude I like."
Still, Sheets does not really want to catch. "I'll try it," he said, "but I think I'd be better as a utility player in the outfield."