O's end Van Slyke confusion

June 19, 1995|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,Sun Staff Writer

DETROIT -- Andy Van Slyke was on his way into chapel before yesterday's game when Orioles manager Phil Regan called him aside.

He had a different sort of message for the veteran outfielder: Van Slyke had been traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for reliever Gene Harris. "God's will," Van Slyke joked.

And thus ended the strange and short relationship between the Orioles and the former All-Star.

"Let's just say I've been confused since the beginning of the whole process," Van Slyke said. "It's over now. I've got a chance to help a club stay in a position [first place] which I think they covet."

Orioles general manager Roland Hemond said that Phillies GM Lee Thomas called him Saturday night and asked about Van Slyke's availability. Thomas needed an outfielder because Lenny Dykstra is hurt and Gregg Jefferies is expected to go on the disabled list with a sprained thumb.

They talked names, and Hemond quickly settled on Harris, a hard-throwing right-hander with some major-league success. They completed the trade yesterday morning.

Harris, 30, throws his fastball in the mid-90s and a slider in the high 80s, but he has bounced through five organizations because of his rocky relationships with his managers.

He once left the Seattle Mariners in midseason, saying he was going to play in the NFL (Harris was a defensive back at Tulane). After being traded to San Diego, Harris became the Padres' closer and saved 23 games in '93. But in April '94, Harris complained that San Diego manager Jim Riggleman wasn't giving him enough time to get loose, and Riggleman slammed Harris, who lost his job as closer and was traded to the Detroit Tigers shortly thereafter.

Harris signed with Philadelphia during the off-season for a $375,000 base salary (Harris' incentives include $85,000 for pitching in 26 games, $85,000 for 35 appearances, $80,000 for 40 appearances, $75,000 for 50 appearances and $50,000 for 55 appearances). He started the year as the Phillies' setup man, but lost that job two weeks ago after a difference of opinion with manager Jim Fregosi over whether his shoulder was healthy.

Harris said yesterday that he was shocked by the deal. "At least sometimes you hear something," he said. "This time, I hadn't heard anything. . . . I had a dry spell due to my shoulder, but I feel fine now."

Harris was 2-2 with a 4.26 ERA for the Phillies. In 19 innings, he allowed 19 hits and nine earned runs, walked eight and struck out nine. He likely will be used in middle relief for the Orioles -- perhaps in the role of Alan Mills, who could be in jeopardy of going back to the minors.

Van Slyke, who hit .159 for the Orioles, likely will step into the Phillies lineup because of the injuries to Dykstra and Jefferies. "I guess there's some questions about Lenny's back," Van Slyke said. "In a way, I guess it's ironic, because my back is feeling great and his isn't."

Van Slyke said that he didn't ask for the trade and that he didn't know anything about it until the moment Regan called him aside. "The only thing I ever asked for was to be treated fairly and get a fair shot," Van Slyke said.

The Orioles began negotiating with Van Slyke in the fall, and through the winter, he said he thought that he would sign with them. But when the talks stalled after the settlement of the strike and the Orioles ended negotiations with Van Slyke, he went to Homestead, Fla., to participate in the free-agent training camp.

Late in spring training, however, Van Slyke's agent called the Orioles and agreed to a $500,000 base contract. But first Van Slyke had to pass what amounted to a two-day tryout, playing exhibitions when he wasn't actually under contract.

He signed for $550,000, the extra money kicked in by Orioles owner Peter Angelos to help soothe any ill will from the negotiations. Van Slyke started the year as the regular center fielder, and hit three homers in the first seven games, but then he reaggravated a forearm strain he suffered in spring training and he simply stopped hitting before going on the disabled list May 16.

He came off the disabled list May 26 and went 1-for-17, and some Orioles executives asked if Van Slyke, 34, simply had lost his ability to hit. Either way, he lost his job: Curtis Goodwin was called up June 2, and Van Slyke went back on the disabled list because of his forearm strain.

(Both of his stints on the disabled list were curious anyway, because the cure for his injury was rest and, each time, Van Slyke was taking full batting practice within 72 hours after being sidelined.)

Goodwin had 10 multihit games in his first 11 days in the big leagues, and when Van Slyke was activated for the second time Friday, there was really no place for him.

Van Slyke was asked if he thought the Orioles had a chance to reverse their awful start.

"There's a chance," he said. "I think Phil is right in his assessment that they have a chance. A lot of things have to happen between now and the end of September. You just have to have guys start playing better, pitchers have to start pitching better. That's the simplistic answer to a complex question."

HARRIS' STATISTICS

Yr. .... Team .... W-L .... ERA .... IP ... H ... SV

'89 .... Montreal .. 1-1 .. 4.95 ... 20 ... 16 ... 0

... .... Seattle ... 1-4 .. 6.48 ... 33 1/3 .. 47 ... 1

'90 .... Seattle ... 1-2 .. 4.74 ... 38 ... 31 ... 0

'91 .... Seattle ... 0-0 .. 4.05 ... 13 1/3 .. 15 ... 1

'92 .... Seattle ... 0-0 .. 7.00 ... 9 .... 8 .... 0

... .... San Diego . 0-2 .. 2.95 ... 21 1/3 .. 15 ... 0

'93 .... San Diego . 6-6 .. 3.03 ... 59 1/3 .. 57 ... 23

'94 .... San Diego . 1-1 .. 8.03 ... 12 1/3 .. 21 ... 0

.... ... Detroit ... 0-0 .. 7.15 ... 11 1/3 .. 13 ... 1

'95 .... Phila. .... 2-2 .. 4.26 ... 19 ... 19 ... 0

Totals .. ... ... 12-18 ... 4.71 .. 237 ... 242 ... 26

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