In what amounts to a stunning roster overhaul, the Baltimore Orioles tonight shipped outfielder Mike Young, second baseman Alan Wiggins and catcher Floyd Rayford to the minor leagues.
All three had been in miserable hitting slumps, and they were replaced by catcher John Stefero and infielder Jackie Gutierrez, from the Class AAA Rochester team, and utility player Tom Dodd from Class AA Charlotte.
"We're at the point where we're 6 1/2 games out of first, but still have a chance to win," Orioles Manager Earl Weaver said. "I've given Young and Wiggins and Rayford chance after chance after chance. The game is hitting. Those guys haven't been hitting."
The moves are stunning because all three players were supposed to be regulars on the 1986 Orioles, and their failures are a big part of their team's failure.
Young, who hit 28 home runs and drove in 81 runs last season, was hitting .236 with five homers and 30 RBI. He has gone 29 games without a home run and has hit .161 in his last 24 games.
The Orioles traded for Wiggins just over a year ago, hoping he would be the leafoff hitter their offense has cried for. He hasn't been, hitting only .251 with a weak .309 on-base average, and lost his job to Juan Bonilla.
Rayford led the Orioles with a .306 batting average last season, but hasn't had his average above .200 since May 4.
Young took the news well, saying, "I've got to go down and get things right. They said maybe a couple of weeks. I know what I'm doing wrong, and I've got to correct it.
"No, it isn't hard to swallow. I'd like to see myself as an established major leaguer, but that's not the case. I said that in spring training, and I'll never take anything for granted."
Rayford agreed, saying, "I just haven't hit. What else is there to say? I've got to get straightened out. I'll be back. I promise you that."
Wiggins appeared on the verge of tears and declined to speak with reporters. He has had a stormy season, with the Orioles disappointed in his defense, his offense and the fact he twice was picked off base to end rallies.