Palmeiro's agent, Orioles open talks Club sets July 20 deadline to re-sign first baseman or he'll likely be traded

Orioles Notebook

July 03, 1998|By Joe Strauss and Roch Kubatko | Joe Strauss and Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Confronted by a self-imposed deadline, the Orioles have held preliminary discussions with the agent for first baseman Rafael Palmeiro on a contract extension. Majority owner Peter Angelos has spoken with Jim Bronner, Palmeiro's lead representative, about the framework for a new deal. Palmeiro said yesterday that he wants a five-year deal but insisted his goal is to remain in Baltimore.

Palmeiro has remained optimistic about his future here despite speculation that the club would only present him a token offer. Club sources say that thinking has changed in recent weeks and that Palmeiro is now viewed as an offensive anchor.

"It all depends on what they're thinking," Palmeiro said when assessing his chances for staying. "We haven't talked about any set number. To tell you the truth, I don't know what they really have to say. But they've talked. That's something."

Palmeiro hasn't spoken to Angelos since early spring. Since then, he has put himself on pace for a career year that would include 50 home runs and 137 RBIs.

On Wednesday, he was named American League Player of the Month for June and has homered in his last four games. Once considered a long shot to stay after advancing a five-year, $50 million demand in January, Palmeiro has apparently rehabilitated his standing. He has not restated his refusal to "do a Brady" and accept less than market value as did center fielder Brady Anderson last December. Most observers believe an average value of $8 million to $8.5 million per season might persuade Palmeiro to forgo free agency and sign an extension.

"It hasn't even gotten that far," Palmeiro said when asked what parameters he has set for negotiations. "It's all been very preliminary. Peter told us he'd get back to us. We're waiting."

As for his five-year demand, Palmeiro said: "I would like that because that would keep me here for the rest of my career. That's what I'm looking for at this point. But I don't know until they come at us with something."

Barring an abrupt turnaround that would stoke postseason visions, the Orioles are considering a July 20 deadline before initiating serious trade discussions regarding Palmeiro and second baseman Roberto Alomar. Unlike Palmeiro, the All-Star second baseman has shown zero interest in conducting in-season negotiations. The Orioles have interpreted the stance as a tacit signal that Alomar does not plan to return.

Kamieniecki improving

Scott Kamieniecki's second bullpen session in three days was so encouraging that he's prepared to ask club officials to allow him to make a rehab start with Double-A Bowie on July 14.

Kamieniecki threw off a mound for 10 minutes, and on the side for another 10. Unlike Tuesday's session, he mixed in a curveball and changeup and increased the velocity on his fastball.

"There was less discomfort than last time. I think last time there was residual from the inactivity," said Kamieniecki, who has been on the disabled list since May 30 with a pinched nerve in his neck.

"I was probably up to 75 or 80 percent today. I'll try to increase the intensity again the next time."

Kamieniecki said he will throw in New York this weekend, and probably again on Tuesday and on July 10. "Then I'll ask them to throw me in a game in Bowie that following Tuesday, even if it's for an inning. It's not unrealistic," he said.

Role playing

Manager Ray Miller conceded that Pete Smith probably would be better suited for middle relief, but still hasn't made a decision about his rotation beyond the All-Star break. Miller seems to be leaning toward keeping Doug Johns in the bullpen and leaving Smith as a starter unless the club can swing a deal.

Johns relieved Smith on Wednesday and held the Florida Marlins to one run over five innings, retiring the last 11 batters he faced. Smith lasted only four innings, allowing four runs and throwing 85 pitches. He's 0-3 with a no-decision in four starts with the Orioles, permitting 27 hits and 19 runs, struggling with his command and never going more than five innings.

"Obviously, he knows he's got to do better. He's got to throw more strikes," Miller said. "I really think he'd be pretty good in that middle relief role but that doesn't solve the starting problem."

Miller is hesitant to disrupt Johns again now that he's got the left-hander in the role he's envisioned since spring training.

"I'd like to do my best to keep Doug Johns where he's at because when you have so many injuries and things are in such disarray, you like to have something solid, something you can count on," he said.

Miller also said he's waiting for Nerio Rodriguez, activated from the DL this week, to "step into a role."

"Hopefully, he might be able to do something like Johns did [Wednesday] night," Miller said.

Rocky Coppinger has moved back into the picture after throwing seven shutout innings this week in his first start at Triple-A Rochester. But the organization remains concerned about his conditioning.

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