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Orioles release Hidalgo, who may go to Japan

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Richard Hidalgo's brief career with the Baltimore Orioles ended Tuesday before he played a single game for the team.

Hidalgo signed a minor league contract on Feb. 26, reported two days later and spent four days in uniform before leaving the team Saturday to be with his ailing wife. He never returned, and the Orioles released the frustrated outfielder Tuesday to allow him to pursue an opportunity in Japan.

"The way it was relayed to us through his agent was that he's not a guy that likes coming off the bench. He's a guy who wants to play every day," Orioles vice president Jim Duquette said. "He didn't have the desire to keep playing if it wasn't an everyday
job."

Even if he made the team, Hidalgo probably would have been a
fourth or fifth outfielder.

Hidalgo is a career .269 hitter with 171 home runs in nine
seasons. The Venezuelan batted .314 with 44 homers and 122 RBI in
his first full season in 2000, but struggled ever since.

He hit .221 with 16 home runs and 43 RBI in 88 games for Texas
last season.

After earning $12.5 million in 2004 and $5 million last year,
Hidalgo found it difficult to put his name on a minor league deal
that would have earned him $1 million if he made the Opening Day
roster.

"That kind of contract, and you know what you can do, what
you've done in the past -- it's not easy," he said after reporting
last week. "But I accept that. I'm just going to come here, do my
best and show people I can play."

He hoped to make a run at a starting job, but it didn't take
long for Hidalgo to realize the team was stocked with capable
outfielders.

"It all started in his mind right after his wife went into the
hospital," Duquette said. "He started thinking about whether he
really had the desire to keep going. We let him take a couple extra
days just to make sure that was his final decision. He's not going
to change his mind at this point."

The Orioles invested much time and effort to get Hidalgo, but
Duquette said he wasn't disappointed in how it ended.

"It's not a major issue for us. We were hopeful that he would
be in the mix in the outfield competition, but things have gone
fine so far," he said. "We're always looking to upgrade, but
we're comfortable with what we have."