Decision on Gibbons has implications
Postponement of suspension complicates O's roster picture
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The Orioles received a stay of discipline for designated hitter Jay Gibbons on Friday, a ruling that complicates the team's Opening Day roster and forces a last-minute decision on the veteran's status.
Gibbons had previously been scheduled to serve a 15-game suspension for the purchase of performance-enhancing drugs, but the league owners and the Major League Baseball Players Association agreed Friday to postpone the discipline until after they've completed further negotiations on the Joint Drug Agreement. Kansas City outfielder Jose Guillen also had his suspension delayed.
"I'm supposed to be suspended in three days, and now I'm not," said Gibbons, explaining his perspective on the late-breaking development. "Put it this way: I'm cautiously optimistic. At least they're talking."
Gibbons was originally disciplined on Dec. 7 after a Sports Illustrated article reported that he'd received 10 shipments of performance-enhancing drugs from Signature Pharmacies between October 2003 and July 2005.
Andy MacPhail, Baltimore's president of baseball operations, said he's not sure exactly how to read the latest ruling. MacPhail said he's not sure if the league will allow for another stay of discipline or make up its mind within 10 days. He also said that the late decision means that the Orioles may have an even harder time filling out their bench.
When Baltimore expected Gibbons to begin the year on the restricted list, Tike Redman and Scott Moore positioned themselves as favorites for a reserve job. The Orioles adjusted by outrighting Redman off the roster Friday afternoon, but Moore will travel north with the team and won't make the roster unless he does so at Gibbons' expense.
"From a club standpoint, the known is preferable to the unknown," said MacPhail. "But having some experience in it, I understand that sometimes you can't get it all resolved to your satisfaction at a particular time. We're working our roster down. We have until Sunday. We'll try to figure out what makes the most sense and try to prepare."
Gibbons, one of the longest-serving Orioles, batted .230 with six home runs last season. The Orioles have made noise about preferring a reserve who can play more than one defensive position, which has led to speculation that Gibbons may get released. In that case, Baltimore would have to eat two years and nearly $12 million of his contract.
MacPhail hasn't expressed an opinion one way or the other, but he said ownership likely wouldn't stand in his way.
"We haven't made a decision," McPhail said in the moments after Baltimore's 4-3 win on Friday. "I haven't determined it at this point. I was waiting to see what the ruling was going to be. Now that we know, we have a couple of days to finalize our roster, and that's what we'll do. We'll weigh the plusses and minuses on what makes the most sense for us and go forward."
Moore has proven adept at both infield corners, and manager Dave Trembley has even tried to use him in the outfield and at second base. Gibbons, on the other hand, is blocked at both first base and right field. If he's going to earn playing time this season, the left-handed hitter would have to do it at either left field or designated hitter.
For now, though, Gibbons is just trying to figure out how the latest ruling affects his season. He had already accepted his suspension and was prepared to miss the first two weeks of the season.
"Obviously, you feel a little more comfortable when you know what's going on in all sorts of realms," Gibbons said. "But, you know, it's part of the game. I was fully prepared to serve my suspension. If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen."
As for the roster spot, MacPhail said the Orioles would likely take all the time allotted to them. Baltimore doesn't have to make a decision on the final spot until 3 p.m. on Sunday. The Orioles may make a waiver claim before then -- which could further complicate the process, but MacPhail doesn't expect to come to a hasty conclusion.
"We'll take advantage of the 48 hours that we have," he said. "I'm certainly one that takes full use of his time. Things evolve. Generally, there is some activity at this time, with guys going back and forth, and some things happening. We'll take a look at the landscape, and use the time that is afforded us and make a decision."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.