- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 26, 2002

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. For a team that says it is staunchly committed to youth, the Baltimore Orioles' decision to lock up 36-year-old Buddy Groom through at least the 2004 season may seem a little out of whack.

"You have to have anchors to everything you do," manager Mike Hargrove said. "His value to us, beyond the fact that he's very good at what he does, is the fact that he takes a lot of pressure off the young kids and allows them to develop as they should."

Groom, one of the most reliable left-handed relievers in baseball, and the Orioles agreed on a two-year, $6.25 million contract extension yesterday. Considering he already was signed through this season, and that the new contract includes a club option for 2005, Groom could remain in a Baltimore uniform through age 40, at which time he hopes to be pitching for a contender.

"I definitely say there's a chance to see some of the young guys develop, to see what they can do, and to be a part of it," he said.

Groom, who went 1-4 with a career-best 3.55 ERA and 11 saves last year, will earn $2.5million this season, followed by $3million in each of the next three years. The contract also includes a $250,000 buyout clause and incentives that could total $500,000 based on the number of games he finishes.

One of two pitchers ever to make 70 or more appearances for six straight years along with Diamondbacks left-hander Mike Myers, Groom played for the Tigers, Marlins and Athletics before signing with the Orioles as a free agent in 2000. In two seasons in Baltimore, he is 7-7 with a 4.17 ERA and 15 saves.

"He's a premier guy," vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift said. "He's a very important person in this business. This gives stability to our bullpen and rewards a person who's been a top performer. Plus he gives us leadership for our young pitchers."

The contract extension caps a hectic few days for Groom, who returned home to Red Oak, Texas, last Thursday to be with his wife, Angela, as she gave birth to the couple's fifth child. Lexi Marie Groom, the family's second daughter, was born Thursday night, and Groom returned to Fort Lauderdale on Sunday.

Segui shines

The Orioles held their first intrasquad game of the spring yesterday, a 4½-inning exhibition that featured a pair of hits by first baseman David Segui.

Segui, coming back from offseason knee surgery, went 2-for-2 with an RBI and gave indication that he's in good health when he picked up a rare stolen base. He had only one last year and has a total of 15 in his 12-year major-league career.

"He said he's going to try to steal three this year," Hargrove quipped.

Other highlights included a pair of diving catches by left fielders Marty Cordova and Jay Gibbons, a double to deep right field by second baseman Brian Roberts and a hit by catcher Brook Fordyce, who is trying to rebound from a dismal season. Fordyce, who hit just .209 last season, pumped his fist as he approached first base upon picking up his first hit of the spring.

Jason Johnson, projected as Baltimore's No.2 or 3 starting pitcher, retired all three batters he faced, as did potential closer Willis Roberts. Right-hander Kris Foster, battling for a spot in the bullpen, surrendered the only two runs of the game.

"It was a good first day," Hargrove said. "I saw some good things and I didn't see anything bad."

The Orioles will hold two more intrasquad games this week before opening official exhibition play Thursday night against the Montreal Expos.

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