O's appear close to Erickson deal

July 07, 1995|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,Sun Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- The Orioles are close to trading for Minnesota Twins right-hander Scott Erickson, and a baseball source says the chances are very good the deal will be completed shortly.

The two sides seem to have settled on the core of the trade: Erickson for Orioles rookie Scott Klingenbeck and a player to be named, although one source familiar with the negotiations say the two sides haven't yet delved into the identity of the second, unnamed player. The Orioles want to check Erickson's medical records before finalizing the deal.

Coincidentally, Erickson beat Klingenbeck at Camden Yards on Tuesday night, holding the Orioles to three hits and five walks in eight innings.

Erickson, 27, resembles Orioles right-hander Kevin Brown in stuff and history. He throws a hard, sinking fastball, and opponents long have marveled about his ability. But he has frustrated the Twins with his failure to win; this year, he's 4-6 with a 5.95 ERA, and lifetime he's 61-60 with a 4.42 ERA.

His best year was 1991, when he went 20-8 with a 3.18 ERA, helping lead the Twins to the World Series. In April last year, he no-hit the Milwaukee Brewers, the highlight of an otherwise dreary 8-11 season.

Orioles manager Phil Regan said, at the outset of this season, that his rotation of Mike Mussina, Ben McDonald, Brown, Sid Fernandez and Arthur Rhodes would be among the best in baseball.

But McDonald struggled early and eventually was sidelined by shoulder tendinitis, Brown suffered a dislocated finger, Fernandez has struggled from the outset of the year and has been demoted to the bullpen, and Rhodes has a 7.16 ERA.

(Rhodes' five-inning, five-run performance against the Twins Wednesday night may have convinced the Orioles they needed another pitcher; if Erickson is acquired, Rhodes likely would be bumped from the rotation, now that Jamie Moyer has established himself.)

Regan was impressed with Erickson's Tuesday night outing.

"He threw a great game," Regan said afterward. "He had a great sinker. I don't know how many ground balls we hit [15 of Orioles' 24 outs vs. Erickson], but it was a lot."

The Twins are in the process of trying to cut payroll, and Erickson makes $1.8625 million this year and could make more next year. Klingenbeck, 24, is 2-2 with a 4.88 ERA, and right now, the conventional wisdom is that he will be a journeyman pitcher in the majors because he doesn't possess overwhelming stuff.

The second player traded by the Orioles probably would not be a major prospect, because of the amount of money the Orioles are absorbing.

Orioles general manager Roland Hemond approached Twins GM Terry Ryan about Erickson earlier this year, but felt then that Ryan's demands were too high.

TRADE TALK

The Orioles are in serious talks with the Minnesota Twins about dealing pitcher Scott Klingenbeck and a player to be named for pitcher Scott Erickson.

Why this would make sense for the Orioles: Erickson long has been renowned for his great stuff, a sinking fastball that would translate into outs on the grass at Camden Yards. He's only 27, and could be a good fourth starter, behind Mike Mussina, Kevin Brown and Ben McDonald. Unlike David Cone, Kevin Tapani or Bret Saberhagen, he doesn't cost the Orioles a major prospect.

Why this would make sense for the Twins: They want to reduce payroll, and Erickson makes $1.8625 million this year and is in line to make more next year. In addition, Erickson's days as an effective pitcher for the Twins may be over; he doesn't see eye to eye with manager Tom Kelly.

The X-factor: Erickson is represented by Dennis Gilbert, one of the most moderate agents in the game. If the Orioles have trouble re-signing McDonald and Brown -- both clients of hardball negotiator Scott Boras -- they may just keep Erickson and one of the other two.

Key stat: From 1990 to '94, Erickson's ERA was almost a run lower on grass (3.48) than on turf (4.33).

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