ATLANTA -- After spending most of the past week looking at alternatives, the Orioles have stepped up their search for a replacement for outfielder Eric Davis and appear to be leaning more toward a designated hitter.
General manager Pat Gillick said before yesterday's game against Atlanta that he has approached a number of teams about a trade possibility but that many teams are reluctant to discuss major deals while still seeing themselves as playoff contenders.
The Oakland Athletics and Philadelphia Phillies have no such thoughts, however, and Gillick and assistant GM Kevin Malone have focused attention on A's right fielder Geronimo Berroa and Phillies outfielder Darren Daulton.
"We'd rather be pro-active than reactive," Gillick said.
However, Gillick further downplayed the possibility of obtaining A's first baseman Mark McGwire, but would not dismiss a deal for another team member.
"I don't think McGwire is going to happen," Gillick said. He later described the A's asking price for their slugger as "overwhelming."
Berroa is a defensive liability, but possesses a streaky, powerful bat that could serve as protection for first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, Gillick's stated goal.
The Orioles have been pleased by the platoon arrangement between Jeffrey Hammonds and Tony Tarasco in right field but are disappointed by the production of DH Pete Incaviglia, who is in a 1-for-24 free fall at .246.
Gillick said finances won't stop a deal unless a player is guaranteed significant money beyond the 1997 season. The Orioles have consistently pressed the Phillies to eat a large portion of Daulton's $4 million salary. That request may be softened given developments with Davis.
Walton 'feels great'
Jerome Walton thought his season was over when he reinjured his left hamstring while running before a May 23 game in Cleveland. Yesterday, upon making his daily 20-minute drive from his home in Fairburn, Ga., to Turner Field to receive treatment and work out with light weights, the outfielder said he "definitely" would return this year.
Knowing the hamstring would keep him sidelined for about six weeks, Walton elected to have surgery to remove a calcium deposit near his right groin. The deposit was the size of a fist and had to be cut in two pieces.
Recovering faster than expected, Walton said he'll begin doing some light running on a treadmill next week.
"I feel great," said Walton, who stopped by the visitor's clubhouse yesterday. "I think in maybe three weeks I'll start back doing my baseball stuff. In three weeks, I should be getting ready to play. The way I feel right now, I could go out and hit and catch some fly balls. I'm very excited."
Manager Davey Johnson was surprised to hear of Walton's optimistic timetable. "I don't think he's even able to do any kind of running, from what I understand," he said.
Williams' knee 'mild 'strain'
Reliever Brian Williams returned to Baltimore to have his sore right knee examined Thursday night by club orthopedist Dr. Michael Jacobs, and an MRI showed no serious damage. He was expected to rejoin the team last night.
"It's probably a mild strain," said general manager Pat Gillick.
Williams pitched 4 2/3 innings Wednesday night, then woke up the next morning with soreness in the knee. It was his longest outing of the season.
With right-hander Alan Mills getting closer to being activated, Williams could be a candidate for the disabled list. If the club wanted to send him down, Williams could elect to become a free agent.
"He should be OK," Johnson said. "He threw enough pitches so that I would have given him at least two days off anyway."
A return for Tarasco
Tarasco was greeted by a steady stream of reporters from Atlanta, where he broke into the majors in 1993.
"I look forward to this more than any other series, except that one special series -- in October," he said.
Tarasco wasn't in the lineup despite the Braves starting right-hander Greg Maddux. Instead, Johnson stayed with the hot bat of Jeffrey Hammonds, who began last night hitting .423 (11-for-26) on this road trip, including six doubles and two home runs. Hammonds went 1-for-4 with a single.
Around the horn
Braves center fielder Kenny Lofton was a late scratch because ** of back spasms. Ryan Klesko was inserted in left field, Michael Tucker moved from left to right, and Andruw Jones went from right to center. Shortstop Jeff Blauser batted leadoff in place of Lofton. Pitcher John Smoltz was sent home before last night's game so he could escape the heat and rest up for today's matchup with Mike Mussina. Cal Ripken received a standing ovation when he came to the plate in the second inning, and it didn't stop until he swung at the first pitch from Maddux and bounced out.
Pub Date: 6/14/97