O's go on attack, get Zeile, Incaviglia Right-handed punch costs them Maduro, another minor-leaguer

August 30, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

SEATTLE -- Unable to land a top-flight starter to address their need for pitching, the Orioles instead bolstered an already healthy offense, acquiring sluggers Todd Zeile and Pete Incaviglia from the Philadelphia Phillies yesterday for two minor-league players to be named.

Zeile likely will play third base, with B. J. Surhoff moving to left field. The deal for Zeile gives the Orioles a starting lineup in which every player likely will finish the year with 20 or more homers. Zeile, who turns 31 in September, has 20 homers and 80 RBIs, impressive numbers considering he was playing for a poor team. Incaviglia, 32, an outfielder, will be a part-time player. Both are expected to join the Orioles today.

Orioles right-handed pitching prospect Calvin Maduro, 22 next week, will be one of the players to be named, according to league sources, as soon as he clears waivers. Maduro currently is pitching for Triple-A Rochester, where he is 3-4 with a 4.28 ERA in seven starts with 14 walks and 40 strikeouts. A source indicated left-hander Don Florence, also with Rochester, is the other player in the deal, but there may be some confusion about this; Florence reportedly was released by Rochester Tuesday.

Manager Davey Johnson wanted Zeile and Incaviglia, both right-handed hitters, to provide more offense against left-handed pitching. The Orioles have been a predominantly left-handed-hitting team, with Brady Anderson, Rafael Palmeiro and B. J. Surhoff. Going into last night's game, the Orioles were 18-22 against left-handed starters, 52-40 against right-handers.

Most of the teams the Orioles are competing against for a playoff spot -- teams the Orioles may face in the postseason -- have at least one good left-handed pitcher, Seattle with Jamie Moyer, the New York Yankees with Jimmy Key and Kenny Rogers, Texas with Darren Oliver.

Zeile and Incaviglia have crushed left-handers this year. In 83 at-bats against lefties, Zeile has five homers and 17 RBIs, while Incaviglia is hitting .365 with six homers in 52 at-bats against lefties.

"This takes away some of the pressure that lefties put on us," Johnson said. "This is a proven fact -- we've had trouble against left-handers."

Zeile, packing his equipment at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia last night, paused to take a phone call. He's been playing first base for the Phillies of late, but said he thinks he'll "feel comfortable at third, even though it's a whole new set of adjustments."

"More grass fields, a league I've never played in before. But this absolutely does excite me. When I came up in 1989 in St. Louis, we got within four of Chicago. Even in that short amount of time, it was exciting. I've heard so many great things about Baltimore. I'm really looking forward to this."

The Orioles still want to add a pitcher, but Johnson says he doesn't expect to make another deal before midnight tomorrow; players acquired after then cannot be added to the postseason roster, barring injury. The Orioles' first priority was adding a pitcher, but there simply aren't that many pitchers available.

They offered a package of players and cash to Pittsburgh for left-hander Denny Neagle, but weren't even close to matching in quality what Atlanta eventually offered to acquire Neagle. (Cleveland, too, had more to offer.)

So the Orioles turned to their second priority -- improving the righty/lefty balance in their lineup. They came close to making a trade for Milwaukee third baseman Kevin Seitzer earlier in the week, but according to club sources, Orioles owner Peter Angelos didn't want to deal a young player such as Jeffrey Hammonds or Jimmy Haynes for a 34-year-old veteran who probably wouldn't be back with the Orioles next year.

The Orioles expressed interest in Pirates infielder Jeff King, but King has a list of 10 teams in his contract that he can't be traded to; the Orioles are one of them. Pirates third baseman Charlie Hayes also was considered.

After their potential deal for Seitzer fell apart, the Orioles turned their attention to the Phillies and Zeile. According to league sources, the clubs verbally agreed to the deal Wednesday, but the Orioles first wanted a chance to talk to Zeile's agent about a possible contract extension. Zeile, who earns $2.5 million, is a free agent after this season.

No formal offer was made, but the Orioles gained an understanding of how Zeile felt about staying in Baltimore next year. "We talked briefly about signing for next season, maybe a year and an option, or something like that," Zeile said. "But we decided this afternoon that they were in a hurry to get it done, they wanted this trade to happen, so we got [contract talks] over with. . . . We'll discuss terms and conditions later."

The Orioles finished the deal at 5: 20 EDT yesterday, and it was announced at 8 p.m. As Orioles players found out about the deal, their initial reactions were virtually identical -- they would've preferred Neagle.

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