O's take triple hit in draft Yan, Dellucci, Ledesma are selected, depleting club's depth for future

'He has best arm up there'

Yan 1st-round selection alters any Leiter deal

November 19, 1997|By JOE STRAUSS | JOE STRAUSS,SUN STAFF

PHOENIX -- The Orioles took a triple hit in yesterday's expansion draft when the Tampa Bay Devil Rays chose right-handed pitcher Esteban Yan with the 18th overall pick, the Arizona Diamondbacks selected outfielder Dave Dellucci in the second round and the Devil Rays took infielder Aaron Ledesma in the third round.

Though the losses don't affect the Orioles' outlook for next season, they did deprive the club of significant depth that might have contributed in 1999.

Yan, 23, enjoyed a dominant minor-league season as he shifted from the bullpen to the rotation at Triple-A Rochester, striking out 131 in 119 innings. He began the season with 22 relief appearances, going 3-3 with a 4.50 ERA, before entering the Red Wings' rotation on June 22. There, the right-hander went 8-2 with a 2.28 ERA and earned the first of two promotions to Baltimore on Aug. 17.

After the first round, the Orioles pulled back three more players -- two pitchers and a position player. According to assistant general manager Kevin Malone, there was discussion about protecting Dellucci but a decision was made to secure more veteran players. The Orioles had exposed veteran middle relievers Jesse Orosco, Terry Mathews and Alan Mills to the first round. Mills is believed to have represented one of the three pullbacks.

Dellucci was the 17th pick of the second round and 45th overall. The Orioles projected him as a starter at Triple-A Rochester next season. "We think we have a chance to win in '98. [Dellucci] was a guy we were projecting for '99," Malone said.

Dellucci became a popular figure in Baltimore last season after being promoted May 31 when right fielder Eric Davis was sidelined by health problems that would culminate with colon cancer surgery. Dellucci, 24, batted .222 with a home run and three RBIs in 17 games. The Orioles protected minor-league outfielder Eugene Kingsale and Danny Clyburn ahead of him.

Three more players were protected after the second round. Only 14 of 28 teams lost players in the final round.

But the Orioles proved to be one of them as the Devil Rays used their third pick in the third round to select Ledesma. A midseason call-up, Ledesma, 24, hit .352 in 88 at-bats while playing all four infield positions.

The Orioles continued to trawl for a trade, but found the going rough. Malone said chances for a deal were remote heading into yesterday's second round.

The Marlins protected Al Leiter, a possible Orioles target, while exposing 23-year-old Maryland native Tony Saunders, who became the draft's first overall selection. Devil Rays manager Larry Rothschild, until Nov. 7 the Marlins pitching coach, said that Leiter was initially unprotected but was later put on the list in place of Saunders. The Marlins will apparently work a deal for Leiter and his $3.2 million 1998 salary on their own.

While interested, the Orioles admittedly must overcome a short-stocked minor-league system in creating a package. Yan apparently was supposed to be involved in the deal for Leiter. The Orioles were hopeful of making a deal but were also resigned to losing Yan. A move for Leiter was being restructured entering the third round.

"It was pretty much unanimous among everybody that he would be the guy we'd lose," Gillick said. "We weren't surprised."

"I figured we'd lose Yan. If you look at the [draft] board, he has the best arm up there. He was a no-brainer," Malone said. "Dellucci was a guy we figured we could lose but hoped we wouldn't."

Yan, the organization's pitcher of the month in June and July, consistently throws in the low 90s but struggled in Baltimore. He was rocked for 17 earned runs and 20 hits in 9 2/3 innings covering three appearances.

The Orioles remain unsure whether their losses would stop last night.

Braves general manager John Schuerholz confirmed yesterday he has significant interest in Orioles free-agent center fielder Brady Anderson.

The Braves, however, are seeking to trim payroll before accelerating their push for Anderson, who hopes to be signed by Thanksgiving. The Braves continue to shop first baseman Fred McGriff ($5.25 million) but are receiving only tepid interest.

There's been plenty of talk but no movement by the Orioles. Anderson's agent, Jeff Borris, spoke with Gillick and Malone late Monday night. In turn, Malone spoke with majority owner Peter Angelos yesterday.

"I'm not optimistic. I'm not optimistic at all," said Borris, who allowed the Orioles may choose to wait until Anderson receives "hard" offers from elsewhere before improving their bid.

Club sources insist Angelos remains convinced Anderson will remain loyal to Baltimore. The Orioles' offer remains at four years for $23 million while Borris anticipates the market to swell to between $7 million and $8 million a year.

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