ROSEMONT, ILL., DEC. 3 -- Baltimore Orioles General Manager Roland Hemond hinted today that he will offer arbitration to free agent catcher Mickey Tettleton.

"We have a pretty good idea of what we want to do," Hemond said. "Without asking, you probably know what we're doing. You have to recognize" offering arbitration "makes a lot of sense."

As Tettleton is a Type A free agent, the Orioles would receive two draft picks as compensation if another club signs him. But if they don't offer him arbitration by Friday's deadline, they would forfeit any right to compensation.

By offering arbitration, they would demonstrate willingness to sign him for a year at a salary not of their choosing. If he accepts arbitration, he would retain his right to become a free agent after next season. The Orioles have not had a player go to arbitration since 1978, when Billy Smith did it.

For the first time in four years, the Orioles did not draft a Rule 5 player, one who has played at least three pro seasons but isn't on a major league roster. However, it wasn't for not trying.

They cleared a roster spot by releasing pitcher "Texas" Mike Smith, but the Twins, picking six spots ahead of the Orioles, chose the player Hemond coveted: switch-hitting outfielder Pat Howell. Howell, 22, batted .264 with 111 strikeouts but 79 stolen bases last season for the Mets' Class A affiliate in Columbia, S.C.