Davis, O's working toward 2-year deal DH-outfielder could be first of host of free-agent signings

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

August 08, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

MINNEAPOLIS -- The free-agent season has begun. Negotiations between the Orioles and several of their nine pending free agents have intensified recently with momentum apparently restored in talks with left fielder B. J. Surhoff and outfielder-designated hitter Eric Davis.

According to sources familiar with the situation, Davis and the club have discussed a two-year framework with an average annual value approaching $3.5 million. The extension may be the first finalized among a list including Surhoff, first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, second baseman Roberto Alomar and reliever Alan Mills. Davis acknowledged yesterday that he prefers not to file for free agency.

"I'm happy where I'm at, so why should I want to leave?" Davis said. "They know I want to stay, and they want me to stay. I think it should happen."

Talks have accelerated since Davis went on a 23-game hitting streak that has brought him within one game of Palmeiro's club record. Aside from his numbers, Davis, 36, who had colon cancer surgery last summer, has proven to the organization that he can play every day. He entered the weekend having appeared in every game since the All-Star break while hitting .378 (42-for-111) with 34 RBIs.

Surhoff's talks regarding a three-year deal snagged during spring training and restarted when assistant general manager Kevin Malone met nine days ago with Surhoff's agent, Greg Clifton. The two sides remain separated on the contract's average annual value, but both sides remain optimistic about a deal being struck.

Surhoff is seeking about $4.5 million per season.

Palmeiro, who said last January that he had no taste for any face-to-face negotiating with Peter Angelos, met with the Orioles majority owner during the team's mini-homestand this week, according to a source familiar with the talks. During the meeting Palmeiro asserted his desire to remain in Baltimore.

Angelos apparently did not present a proposal, but the two sides agreed to pursue an agreement during the season. Palmeiro rankled many within the warehouse when he insisted he "won't do a Brady" Anderson by accepting below-market value. The Boston Red Sox have since offered first baseman Mo Vaughn a four-year, $37 million deal. Palmeiro wants a five-year deal for close to the same annual value.

Like Davis, Palmeiro has enhanced his leverage with a recent offensive surge. Palmeiro is batting .333 (45-for-135) with 11 home runs and 27 RBIs in his past 36 games. His grand slam Wednesday gave him the major-league lead for total bases (2,674) during the '90s.

The Orioles also are discussing an extension with Mills' agent, Adam Katz. Mills currently ranks third among AL relievers by allowing only 11 percent of inherited runners to score. Opponents are hitting only .144 against him with runners on base.

Rhodes to throw today

Middle reliever Arthur Rhodes will throw today for the first time since a failed attempt in Anaheim two weeks ago. Should he be able to keep on pitching coach Mike Flanagan's schedule, Rhodes may be ready for a rehab assignment at Double-A Bowie when the Orioles return from this 10-game trip.

Rhodes, on the disabled list since July 5, says the inflamed flexor tendon in his left elbow no longer carries a burning sensation.

"It doesn't hurt at all," said Rhodes. "I'll wind it up and see what happens."

Rhodes, who has 34 strikeouts in his past 12 outings, carries a bone spur in the elbow, causing it to flare each year. He finally gave in to the pain after the All-Star break when rest failed to ease the condition.

He has accepted a cortisone shot to the elbow but remains insistent that he will not pursue off-season surgery.

"If it doesn't give me a problem the rest of the season, I'll leave it alone. If it gives me more problems, I'll have to consider doing something," he said.

Around the horn

The Orioles passed on Pete Schourek's name when the Houston Astros placed the left-hander on waivers earlier this week. The Boston Red Sox didn't as they claimed Schourek, then purchased his contract. "I never heard his name," said Miller. The Red Sox immediately put Schourek (7-6, 4.50 ERA) into their rotation. The Orioles' 16 runs were the most given up this year by Minnesota. Minnesota's Marty Cordova (3-for-4) had reached base in eight straight plate appearances until grounding out in the seventh. Cal Ripken's homer was his ninth this season and the 379th of his career, moving him into a tie for 37th on the career list with Orlando Cepeda and Tony Perez. Jesse Orosco made his 1,000th relief appearance (1,004th appearance overall), becoming only the fourth player to reach that milestone in major-league history.

Pub Date: 8/08/98

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