The trade may yet come to pass, but talks between the Baltimore Orioles and Houston Astros about power-hitting first baseman Glenn Davis have been suspended since before the holidays.
Doug Melvin, Orioles assistant general manager, said yesterday: "We haven't talked since before Christmas. Nothing is imminent at this time."
However, Melvin left the door ajar for a resumption of activity, saying, "We did say we'd get back with Houston, touch base again after the break."
General manager Roland Hemond's return today from an extended holiday could signal a new round of talks.
The Orioles' initial interest in Davis surfaced during the winter meetings early last month. But whether they will meet the asking prices is another matter.
First, they probably would have to part with four players, because the Astros are desperate for young pitching. Houston likes Curt Schilling, but probably would settle for Mark Williamson, and also reportedly wants Pete Harnisch, Steve Finley and David Segui.
Then, the Orioles would have to meet Davis' demand for a multiyear contract, reportedly for $25 million over five years.
And Davis will be a free agent after next season unless he signs, and is eligible for salary arbitration now.
There also is competition. The New York Mets are looking for a slugger to replace Darryl Strawberry, and the California Angels also are interested in Davis and have what the Astros want -- young pitching.
Davis might be somewhat of a gamble in another sense. He played in only 93 games last season because of back and rib-cage problems, hitting 22 home runs and driving in 64 runs.
Meanwhile, former major-leaguers Joel Youngblood and Reid Nichols are among the additions to the Orioles' minor-league staff.
Youngblood, who holds the distinction of playing for two major-league teams on the same day, will coach with the Class A Carolina League champion Frederick Keys.
"He went the hard road through the minors, had a long stay in the big leagues, played a lot of roles and has a lot of experiences he can share," said Melvin.
Ex-Red Sox outfielder Nichols returns to baseball after a three-year absence and will be a coach for the Orioles' new Gulf Coast League entry (rookie league) in Sarasota, Fla.
He will work with manager Ed Napoleon, a Baltimore native with 35 years in baseball, the past two as the Houston Astros' eye in the sky.
"Ed was my first minor-league instructor," said Melvin. "He is particularly known for working with outfielders. He helped Reggie Jackson when he was getting a lot of criticism for his defense, and later Bo Jackson."
Tom Brown will shift from the Class AA Hagerstown Suns to become the pitching coach at Sarasota. His replacement with the Suns will be Steve Luebber, who had a brief stint as an Orioles pitcher during the 1981 strike season and has spent the past six years working in the San Diego Padres organization.
Napoleon, Nichols and Brown reside in the Sarasota area.
In addition, Chris Lein has been named pitching coach of the Bluefield Orioles of the Appalachian League (rookie league). He has been working in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.
With the start-up of the Sarasota team in June, the Orioles will have six farm teams after being the only major-league team with five last year.
The only vacancy in the ranks is pitching coach at Frederick. Mike Pazik, who held that job in 1990, will serve as the roving instructor.
* Orioles who live locally during the off-season will begin workouts at Memorial Stadium on Monday under the supervision of coach Elrod Hendricks.
Workouts will be held Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, and pitchers are expected to be in the majority at the first few sessions.
Gregg Olson, Dave Johnson, Pete Harnisch, Schilling, Mike Linskey and Anthony Telford make their winter homes here.
* The Orioles have completed their 20-man full-time scouting staff, one more than last season, with the hiring of Fred Peterson, 30.
Peterson will be assigned to Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota, said acting scouting director Gary Nickels.
* Oakland Athletics pitcher Dave Stewart has been named as the final head-table guest for the Tops in Sports banquet a week from tonight at Towson Center. Stewart will receive the Jack Dunn Award for outstanding service to baseball.
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