Catcher Ernie Whitt has accepted an invitation to the Baltimore Orioles' spring training camp, Orioles General Manager Roland Hemond announced yesterday.

He will be a nonroster player, but the Orioles have few established left-handed batters, and may want to keep three catchers. They traded Mickey Tettleton to the Detroit Tigers, and Chris Hoiles is coming back from an injury to his right (throwing) shoulder, although Hemond said Hoiles is "coming along very well and should be fine."

Inviting Whitt to camp "gives us some protection and, if he makes the team, will give us more depth," Hemond said. "As I see it right now, {Bob} Melvin and Hoiles are our two catchers, and Whitt's fighting for a third spot. We also could use him as a pinch hitter."

Whitt, 38, played for the Atlanta Braves last season, and he spent the previous 13 seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays. They traded him to the Braves in December 1989, making him the last of their original players to leave the club.

He batted .172 and hit two home runs in 67 games for Atlanta, but a dislocated left thumb disabled him two months. It was the first time since 1981 he failed to hit at least 11 homers. He has a career .249 batting average.

The Braves had an option to extend his contract another season for about $1 million. They released him instead.

"We contacted him in October, and told him that depending on what transpired we could be interested in bringing him in on a look-see basis," Hemond said. "He agreed to do that {yesterday}. He admits last year wasn't a good year, but he says he's ready to show what he can do."

The Orioles began last season with Tettleton and Melvin but they also carried Hoiles for stretches that totaled about two months.

The Orioles' only proven left-handed batters are outfielders Brady Anderson and Joe Orsulak and first baseman-designated hitter Sam Horn. First baseman David Segui and infielders Juan Bell and Jeff McKnight switch-hit.

Hemond said the club is continuing negotiations with its three players who are eligible for arbitration: first baseman Glenn Davis, second baseman Bill Ripken and pitcher Jeff Robinson. Davis, who made $1.985 million last season with the Houston Astros, is seeking $3.65 million; he is being offered $2.9 million. His case is scheduled for Feb. 14 in New York.

Ripken reportedly made $215,000 last season, is seeking $920,000, and is being offered $585,000. His case is slated for Feb. 20. Robinson reportedly made $410,000, is seeking $750,000, and is being offered $465,000. His case is scheduled for mid-February.