Notes: Hidalgo absent from O's camp

Notes: Hidalgo absent from Orioles camp

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Richard Hidalgo's tenure in Baltimore appears to be over.

The outfielder left the Orioles on Saturday to attend to some personal business and still hasn't returned, leading one source to say Hidalgo may be contemplating retirement. The team is expected to have some official resolution on Tuesday, lending finality to a bizarre week-long saga.

Hidalgo signed a Minor League contract on Feb. 26 and seemed to be in the mix for the starting job in left field. He only spent four days in uniform though -- none in game action -- before leaving the team. The Orioles had expected to start him Saturday, but they didn't have any updates on his status over the last few days.

"If he's going to come back, we need to find out what his program is pretty soon," Baltimore manager Sam Perlozzo said on Monday. "He came in a little late anyway. We need to get a read on him pretty quickly."

Hidalgo appeared to have an excellent chance to break camp with the O's, and if he did, he had a contract that would pay him a $1 million base salary with an additional $2.5 million in attainable incentives.

He also had clauses that would allow him to request his release if he wasn't on the roster by March 26, as well as a provision that allowed him to sign with a Japanese club for $100,000.

Earlier in the day, Melvin Mora, one of Hidalgo's close friends, said he's not sure what to make of the situation.

"Believe me, I was surprised. I think he has family problems -- that's what somebody told me," Mora said. "I don't know what happened. We can say anything we want, but I don't know what happened with his family. He had major reasons to go, and family comes first."

Role model: Perlozzo took some time out to speak to one of his peers on Monday, when he shared a pregame chat with Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. The relationship between the two men goes back more than 15 years, but it's one of the first times they've talked since Perlozzo got elevated to his own dream job.

"We've kind of always talked," said Perlozzo. "Back in 1990, when I was with the Reds, we played the A's in the World Series. I'd never met him. After we won our last game to clinch it, he came over and wanted to meet me. Little did he know, I wanted to meet him.

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"He told me, at that point in time, he just wanted to come over and congratulate me -- tell me that he liked a lot of the things I did out there as a coach. I was on Cloud 9 to have someone like that say something to me."

Now, after a lifetime in the game, the two men have more to talk about. Perlozzo said he tried to ask La Russa for advice on how to handle his team and wound up imparting some wisdom of his own.

"We were talking about some things -- how he handles his ballclub, things he does to keep everything together," Perlozzo said. "I'm constantly trying to learn, and he actually said the same thing, that he always asks a lot of questions. He said, 'Well, you're coming here asking me and I'm walking away learning something, too.'

"It was just real good baseball stuff. It was kind of neat, because I got some real good ideas from him."

Still smoking: Nick Markakis continued his tear out of the Spring Training gates on Monday with two doubles in two turns at bat. Baltimore's top prospect has six hits in his first seven at-bats. Add in four walks, and he's reached safely 10 times in his first 11 plate appearances.

"I just take it day by day -- go out there, play hard every day and see what happens," said Markakis. "The big part is just being comfortable at the plate and swinging at good pitches. If you do that, you'll be successful."

Perlozzo, who has been asked about Markakis nearly every day -- both before and after games -- had a pithy response on Monday.

"Let's just say he's certainly up to the competition he's facing so far," he said.

On the mend: Todd Williams has begun to throw on the side, hastening his return from a sore shoulder. Williams has been held out of mound work since the first week of Spring Training, and he hopes to get back on the hill some time this week.

The right-hander said he threw from flat ground on Sunday and plans on repeating the process two more times.

"It's frustrating any time you have an injury, but you have to learn from your mistakes," Williams said. "I did the same thing I usually do in the winter. I just think I overdid it too early this winter and came in a little sore.

"I think I'm kind of lucky it happened this early so it gave me time to get ready."

Perlozzo said Williams won't need too much time to get ready, and he also said he's counting on the veteran to fill a key role in the bullpen this season.

"He was definitely one of our toughest righties. He bridged the gap to our closer a lot of times," said Perlozzo, referencing last year. "He's real important to us this year. It's important, if you have a youngster closing, that you have a LaTroy Hawkins and a Todd Williams in front of him to help stabilize that situation and keep things under control."

Quotable: "It's tough to say. You can be physically ready, but ready to throw good pitches and get outs is another story. I don't think it will take very long." -- Williams, speculating on how long he'll need to be ready

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.