O's bring home Murray, 10-6 win Indians get Mercker and cash for DH

5-run 10th tops Boston

July 22, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

BOSTON -- Eddie Murray left Baltimore after the 1988 season on bad terms with the Orioles' front office. But he returns eight years later to open arms, by a team that desperately needs him to produce runs.

The Orioles traded slump-ridden pitcher Kent Mercker for Murray yesterday, announcing the deal after the Orioles' 10-6 win over Boston. The Orioles also will add cash to the deal, to make up the difference between Mercker's $2.825 million salary and Murray's $2 million. According to a source familiar with the terms of the deal, the Orioles will pay Cleveland the pro-rated difference between the players' salaries every two weeks, a sum that could add up to between $300,000 and $400,000.

Murray, 40, will be the Orioles' everyday designated hitter, and -- also may play some at first base, where he was a seven-time All-Star for the Orioles. Murray, hitting .262 with 12 homers for Cleveland, needs nine more homers to reach 500 for his career. He's expected to be in uniform tonight when the Orioles begin a three-game series against Minnesota, and he'll face the Indians in a four-game series that starts Thursday.

"This will be good to have Eddie, where he's played well," said Orioles manager Davey Johnson. "He's just a great as set."

Said Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken: "To me, he's a positive on the field and in the clubhouse. . . . To me, he carries himself very professionally and does his job. Baltimore is the place where he started his career and it's a place special to him.

"I think in a lot of ways, he's always considered himself an Oriole, even though he's been in a lot of places."

When told about the trade, Cleveland players reacted angrily. "Eddie Murray means so much to me and meant so much to this team," said center fielder Kenny Lofton. "Everyone here was looking forward to seeing him hit his 500th homer, and see him do it in Cleveland. I guess Baltimore's going to get that thrill now."

Said pitcher and former Orioles teammate Dennis Martinez: "What he did for two years here, help bringing Cleveland its first ++ championship in 41 years, people forget about that. He can still ++ hit, but they tried to cut down his playing time. I don't understand that.

"I'm relieved he's gone to a place he'll be happy. Hopefully he'll get his nine home runs and get out of the game with his head up. . . . Next time I face him, I'm going to throw three right down the middle so he can get his home runs."

The Orioles have had 10 different players serve as designated hitter this season. "We need somebody who's content being the designated hitter," Johnson said.

Mercker and Murray had both fallen out of favor with their respective clubs. Murray and Cleveland general manager John Hart reportedly no longer were on speaking terms, and Mercker, 3-6 with a 7.76 ERA, had been an awful disappointment for the Orioles.

"Kent Mercker is a valuable addition to this organization," Hart said. "Besides our getting a quality left-handed pitcher, this deal provides Eddie Murray, a future Hall of Famer, with a chance to get more at-bats on his quest for 500 homers with his original team, the Orioles."

The two sides have been speaking about a deal for several weeks, the Orioles wanting more than a simple trade of Mercker for Murray, figuring that the Indians eventually would dump Murray anyway.

But Hart insisted to the Orioles that he never would release Murray, that the slugger would rot on his bench before that happened. When Mercker got pounded by Toronto last Wednesday, that sealed his fate and the two sides all but completed the deal Saturday.

(Members of the Orioles organization weren't happy, either, when they thought Mercker didn't want to pitch in relief Friday in a 13-2 loss to Boston; Mercker emphatically denied this, saying he felt like he needed to pitch but hadn't had a chance to see how his arm felt.)

Mercker was dropped from the rotation June 18, and pitched only twice after that. "I know me and Davey had it out one time, but it was frustration on both our parts," Mercker said. "That's not a personal thing, it's me being too competitive."

Murray left the Cleveland clubhouse before writers were allowed in after yesterday's game, and already his nameplate was gone.

Orioles general manager Pat Gillick talked to Murray yesterday. "He sounded very good," Gillick said. "He hasn't been playing a lot over there. He'll get more of a chance over here."

The Orioles need him, with Brady Anderson looking at the possibility of surgery for appendicitis and Rafael Palmeiro and Roberto Alomar fighting nagging injuries.

They won yesterday in spite of the injuries, although they had to survive a blown save to do so.

The Orioles took a 5-3 lead in the eighth inning when B. J. Surhoff hit a two-out, two-run triple on the 161st pitch by Boston starter Roger Clemens. Mike Mussina threw seven solid innings and was in position to win his 12th game.

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