Now that Ken Dayley has been sold, Joe Price can't wait for his turn in the free-agent auction. "A couple of teams wanted to see what he was going to do first," Price said. "This kind of opens things up for me."
Dayley, the top middle-inning reliever among free-agent lefthanders, yesterday signed a three-year, $6.3 million contract with Toronto. Price will soon learn if other clubs agree with the Orioles' view of him as a "walking time bomb."
St. Louis now needs a replacement for Dayley, who was 4-4 with a 3.56 ERA and two saves last season. Los Angeles also is seeking a lefthander for its bullpen, and Seattle tried to sign Price before settling on Matt Young last year.
Price, who turns 34 on Thursday, went 3-4 with a 3.58 ERA and no saves last season, but the Orioles opted not to exercise the $400,000 option on his contract, citing a bulging disk in his back and crowded roster space.
Two weeks ago, agent Joe Bick sent the Orioles a positive medical report on Price from two prominent Bay Area specialists. The club's interest in Price, however, still appears limited. Other teams have shown a "reasonable degree of interest," Bick said.
"Until guys get picked off the top, it's difficult to predict what will happen," Bick said. "A team that has no interest one day might be first in line to sign a guy after it gets closed out on someone else."
A dozen teams were interested in Dayley.
Eleven were closed out yesterday.
* WAITING, WONDERING: Free-agent catcher Mickey Tettleton's wife Sylvia gave birth to their first child last Wednesday, a boy named Taylor Lee. Now only if the newborn knew where he'd be living next year.
Tettleton's agent, Tony Attanasio, yesterday reported "nothing substantive" in recent talks with other clubs, but he expects interest in Tettleton to increase this week as the winter meetings approach.
"With all due respect to the Orioles, they really should go to him and say, 'Here's a three-year contract, come back and stay with us, let's bury this garbage and put it to bed,' " Attanasio said.
"If he does come back for one year and has the kind of year they think he will and conceivably can, what the hell happens next year when he goes back on the market?"
* DOWN ON THE FARM: Baseball America rates the 1990 amateur draft in an upcoming issue, and the Orioles are one of eight clubs that received a grade of B.
The magazine awarded only three As -- to top-ranked Montreal, Toronto and Oakland. Boston received the lowest rating among the 26 major-league clubs.
Orioles' first-round pick Mike Mussina, a righthander out of Stanford, was rated the fourth closest to being ready for the majors -- behind the White Sox's Alex Fernandez, the Cubs' Lance Dickson and the A's Kirk Dressendorfer, all pitchers.
Second-round pick Jeff Williams, a 6-foot-4, 230-pound righthander out of Wichita State, was named second hardest thrower behind Oakland's highly regarded Todd Van Poppel. Third-round pick Mike Thomas, an outfielder from Richmond City, N.C., was ranked fifth best athlete.