Outfielder gets spring training invite

Updated: January 9, 2004, 12:54 AM ET
Associated Press

BALTIMORE -- Outfielder B.J. Surhoff re-signed with the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday, accepting a minor league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.

If the Orioles did not agree to a deal by midnight Thursday, he would not have been able to re-sign until May 1.

Surhoff would get an $800,000, one-year contract if he makes the opening day roster and can earn an addition $1.15 million in performance bonuses based on games and plate appearances. After signing a similar deal with Baltimore last year, he started on opening day and played in 93 games, hitting .295 with five homers and 41 RBIs.

Surhoff returns to a team enhanced by the offseason addition of free agents Javy Lopez and Miguel Tejada. The Orioles are also involved in negotiations with veteran first baseman Rafael Palmeiro and outfielder Vladimir Guerrero.

Palmeiro, 39, is seeking a two-year contract to return to Baltimore. Palmeiro and Surhoff were teammates on the Orioles in 1997, the last time the team reached the postseason.

Guerrero, meanwhile, is seeking a contract longer than the five years offered by Baltimore.

Surhoff, who turns 40 in August, twice was placed on the disabled list in 2003. He is expected to see a reduced role this year -- especially if the Orioles land Guerrero and Palmeiro.

Surhoff received the majority of his 73 starts (37) at designated hitter in 2003. The left-handed hitter can expect a few spot starts against right-handers in 2004, and should also receive several at-bats as a pinch hitter.

The Orioles on Thursday also invited nine non-roster players to their spring training camp in Florida. They are: right-handed pitcher Darwin Cubillan; catchers Raul Casanova, Bill Haselman and Carlos Mendez; infielders Napoleon Calzado, Eddy Garabito and Luis Lopez; and outfielders Chad Mottola and Pedro Swann.

Mendez and Swann were with the Orioles for parts of last season, while Casanova and Lopez spent time with the Orioles in 2002. Haselman would get a $500,000, one-year deal if he makes the team.

In other news, the Orioles announced that they will open the 2004 season on Sunday night, April 4, at home against Boston, a game originally slated to take place on April 5, which will now be an off day.

Playing on national television on Sunday night, according to Orioles vice president Mike Flanagan, is ''a great way for us to kick off our 50th anniversary season with lots of fanfare.''

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press