Catcher Mike Figga joined the Baltimore Orioles this afternoon after being claimed on waivers from the New York Yankees. Figga will be in the starting lineup Saturday night against the Philadelphia Phillies to give workhorse starter Charles Johnson a day off.
The start will be the first of the season for Figga, who was buried behind Joe Girardi and Jorge Posada with the Yankees. Despite spending the entire season with the World Series champions, he had caught just two innings -- both as a defensive replacement.
"I've had eight at-bats in the big leagues in three years," Figga said. "It was really tough in New York. They're a great bunch of guys, but when you're playing behind Joe and Jorge, you're not going to get in many games."
Figga, 27, made the Yankees' roster out of spring training because he was out of options and could not be sent back to the minors without clearing waivers. The Yankees kept him for the first two months of the season, but waived him when they needed a roster spot this week.
The Orioles sent rookie Tommy Davis back to the minors to clear a roster spot for Figga. However, they face another decision when Lenny Webster recovers from a sprained ankle.
Figga could stay even after Webster returns. He has first-rate defensive skills and is coming off a season when he had 26 home runs and 95 RBI for Class AAA Columbus.
"He's interesting to me," Orioles Manager Ray Miller said. "I looked at that 26 home runs and 95 RBI at Columbus, and that catches your eye. We'll find out about him. We lack depth at catcher in the organization."
Figga finished the 1995 season at Columbus, then started the next three seasons there before beginning this season in the big leagues. After last season, he knew it was time to find out if he could play in the major leagues, and he hopes this is his opportunity.
"I'm very happy," he said. "I hadn't heard a thing and was starting to get a little worried I might not be claimed. I'm just looking for a chance to show people I can play. I'd like to get in a game here or there."
Second baseman Delino DeShields was scratched from the starting lineup tonight and replaced by Jeff Reboulet 30 minutes before game time when his sore back tightened up again. An MRI exam detected no serious damage, and Miller is confident DeShields could be playing regularly again soon. He grounded out as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning tonight.
"It's just a muscular thing," Miller said. "They think he needs to do more preventive exercises."
Right-hander Scott Kamieniecki was to be examined by another doctor today to seek the cause of neck stiffness that forced him to leave his last start at Class AAA Rochester. He's scheduled to make his final start there on Monday, and the Orioles probably will be forced to release him and eat his $3.35 million salary. He's 0-2 with a 23.40 earned run average in two starts, and has drawn mixed reviews in two weeks at Rochester.
CAPTION: Second baseman Delino DeShields still is bothered by sore back that tightened up, causing him to be scratched from lineup shortly before last night's game. (Photo ran in an earlier edition)