10/29/2003 7:30 PM ET Hentgen files for free agency By Gary Washburn / MLB.com
Pat Hentgen went 6-3 with a 3.10 ERA after the All-Star break. (Scott Martin/AP)
BALTIMORE -- The Orioles did not honor the $4 million option on Pat Hentgen's contract and instead countered with a multiyear offer at a reduced price, so the right-hander decided to opt for free agency Wednesday. Hentgen, perhaps the Orioles best pitcher at the end of last season, turned down an extension and instead will entertain offers from other teams when he is eligible for free agency on Nov. 10. While neither side ruled out Hentgen returning next season, he is, as of now, no longer an Oriole.
"We did try to reach some sort of agreement, but weren't able to do that," executive vice president Jim Beattie said. "We decided we should just wait. He decided he would rather wait to see the managerial situation [resolved]. We didn't close any doors. We will talk next month."
Hentgen, who turns 35 on Nov. 13, was apparently uneasy about the managerial situation and makeup of the club for next season. The team is expected to overhaul its roster with non-tenders, free-agent signings and trades.
Hentgen was the O's most consistent pitcher after the All-Star break, going 6-3 with a 3.10 ERA while allowing 69 hits in 87 innings. He finished 7-8 with a 4.09 ERA in 28 games.
Beattie said the club had offered Hentgen an incentive-laden contract.
But Hentgen's agent, Bob LaMonte, said his client wanted to wait until the Orioles hired a manager and made some free-agent decisions before signing.
"When they didn't honor the option year at 4 [million], he felt like he would be remiss if he would not look to the free agent market," LaMonte said from Reno, Nev. "He knows he is not Bartolo Colon, but he sees himself as a strong No. 3 [starter]. But that door [with the Orioles] certainly wasn't closed."
LaMonte said he would talk to Beattie at the general managers' meetings next month in Phoenix, but that he would also gauge interest in Hentgen with other GMs. Because of his Tommy John surgery in August 2001, Hentgen was limited to 41 games over three seasons in Baltimore after signing a two-year contract with a team option for a third year in November 2000.
He made $1.2 million last season and received another $2 million when he reached 150 innings pitched. He will receive a $300,000 buyout.
"We had a great relationship in Baltimore," LaMonte said. "They treated Pat well from [owner] Peter Angelos all the way down. There is not one negative thing I can say about Baltimore. But it's a business. Pat would want to know more about what direction the team is going."
The club also parted ways with catcher Brook Fordyce, whose $4 million option was not honored. Fordyce, once considered a mainstay at catcher, declined quickly after signing a three-year contract extension in 2000. After being replaced by Geronimo Gil as starter in 2002, he regained his position last season, but had just 31 RBIs in 348 at-bats.
The club is seeking a major upgrade behind the plate.
Meanwhile, the team continued its managerial interviews with Tom Foley, the third base coach from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Foley, who played 13 years in the Major Leagues, said the Orioles have an encouraging future.
"It's an exciting club, young with some veterans," he said. "With [Jay] Gibbons still here, and [Larry] Bigbie steps in here, I kinda like the way he swung the bat this past year. There are some people here who can make things happen and make a difference along with what's down in the minor leagues."
Foley, who has spent one season on a big-league coaching staff, is considered a long shot. He interviewed for the Tampa Bay position last winter, before Lou Piniella became available.
Beattie said the club has not counted out interviewing former Boston manager Grady Little, whose contract option was not honored on Monday. Little has not been contacted.
"We've been discussing it," Beattie said. "We'll let you know when you decided to interview anyone. We have considered everyone's name out there. [Little] is someone we're considering."
Beattie also said the club has contacted representatives from Japanese standout Kazuo Matsui, a shortstop for the Seibu Lions. Matsui filed for free agency on Tuesday.
"It's something we have explored," Beattie said. "We'll probably wait a little bit and see what happens."
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