O's should return Wells or Schilling

February 20, 1999|By KEN ROSENTHAL

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Bring back Boomer.

It doesn't have to be now. It probably can't be now. But at some point, the Orioles should attempt to re-acquire David Wells.

And if Wells can't be had, the Orioles should target another of their former pitchers, Philadelphia right-hander Curt Schilling.

For two years now, they've been trying to add a No. 2 starter. Either Schilling or Wells would qualify as a co-No. 1.

Schilling predicted yesterday that he might be traded, and he lists the Orioles and Cleveland Indians among the teams to which he would accept a deal.

The Phillies responded that Schilling would be their Opening Day starter, and they probably won't consider dealing him until after they fall out of contention.

Meanwhile, Toronto general manager Gord Ash said he had no plans to trade Wells or any of the Blue Jays' other starting pitchers, but that could change.

In fact, it could change very quickly if Boomer doesn't recover emotionally from getting traded by his beloved New York Yankees back to his original team.

The Orioles will stage their first workout for pitchers and catchers today with significant concerns about their bullpen. But as always, they still could use one more quality starter.

At the moment, their rotation consists of ace Mike Mussina, inning-eater Scott Erickson and three questions -- Juan Guzman, Sidney Ponson and Scott Kamieniecki.

The oft-injured Guzman has averaged seven victories the past four seasons. Ponson is promising, but unproven. Kamieniecki is coming off disk surgery.

Even Erickson, a 16-game winner the past two seasons, probably is more suited to being a No. 3 starter than a No. 2.

Enter Wells, the left-hander the Orioles so badly need.

He plans to spend the weekend golfing in Miami, brooding over life's cruel twists and indulging in any number of decadent pleasures.

Imagine Boomer's heartache.

No more Babe Ruth comparisons. No more Howard Stern appearances. No more New York nights.

"I've never seen him so down beyond depressed. I've never seen anybody so stunned by a trade," Yankees pitcher David Cone said after spending four hours with Wells on Thursday night.

"He was pacing and couldn't sit down. He just had to get away."

Toronto pitchers and catchers are due to report Monday.

What are the odds Boomer doesn't post?

One man's misery is another team's opportunity -- or at the very least, a spring-training fantasy.

The Blue Jays are deep in starting pitching, with Pat Hentgen, Joey Hamilton, Chris Carpenter, Kelvim Escobar and Roy Halladay. The Indians contacted Ash about Wells hours after the Clemens trade.

"Our position is that we've had plenty of opportunities to trade the young starters we have," Ash said. "We're going to resist that temptation."

And the veterans?

"Our feeling is that we have a contending club. We're going to need those players to carry it out," Ash said.

You wouldn't expect Ash to say anything different, but let's see what happens if Wells arrives disgruntled, or if the Blue Jays stumble in the first half.

Remember last season?

The Jays dismantled, dumping Guzman, Mike Stanley, Ed Sprague and Randy Myers. They then went 34-18 in the final two months to finish nine games ahead of the Orioles.

Another slow start, and manager Tim "War Games" Johnson will be fired.

Wells, meanwhile, could be available by the All-Star break, if not sooner.

So could Schilling.

The Jays obviously will trade within the division -- they sent Guzman to the Orioles, Stanley to the Red Sox and Clemens to the Yankees. And the Phillies probably would seek the same type of prospect package, one the Orioles would be more than willing to offer.

Some of us would love to see a future infield of Calvin Pickering at first, Jerry Hairston at second and Ryan Minor at third, presuming they all can play. But the reality is, it's never going to happen.

The Orioles ended up leaving their options open at first base and third after their annual off-season spending spree, but only by accident. When they offered Rafael Palmeiro and Robin Ventura long-term deals, it spoke volumes about their commitments to Pickering and Minor.

At this point, it's difficult to believe that any of their prospects will ever become regulars in Baltimore. Agree or disagree, this is the path the Orioles have taken. It might be a road to ruin, but now that they've reached this point, there's no turning back.

What would it take to land Wells or Schilling?

Probably three young players.

The Orioles can offer Minor, pitcher Chris Fussell, maybe even Pickering in the right trade. Hairston also is a possibility -- he's stuck behind DeShields for three years, unless the Orioles return him to shortstop, where Mike Bordick is in the last year of his contract.

All that would amount to a high price, but the addition of Wells (signed through 1999 with an option for 2000) or Schilling (signed through 2000 with an option for 2001) would make the rotation playoff-caliber. It also would enable the Orioles to score a public-relations coup, re-acquiring a pitcher who got away.

Bring back Boomer. Bring back Schilling.

Why should the Yankees have all the fun?

Pub Date: 2/20/99

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