Trade talk has Rhodes scratching head

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Agent says Indians deal imminent, but Angelos said balking

Baines hurting

July 30, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

As Saturday night's waiver deadline approaches, Arthur Rhodes can only wonder if he's staying or going. The last two days have given him conflicting signals.

Rhodes arrived yesterday afternoon at Camden Yards having been informed by his agent, Dan Horwits, that the Orioles had all but finalized a trade that will send him to the Cleveland Indians.

But a club source said majority owner Peter Angelos had not approved the deal and was hopeful of signing Rhodes, a pending free agent, to a multi-year extension.

Negotiations between the Orioles and Yankees that included Rhodes broke down in recent days. The Indians, New York Mets, San Francisco Giants and Atlanta Braves also have expressed interest in Rhodes, among the highly-sought relievers on the market.

Rhodes said he spoke yesterday morning with Angelos and left for Seattle unsure but hopeful that he would be returning with the club next week.

"I told him I'd love to stay in Baltimore," Rhodes said. "[Angelos] said he'd love to keep me, too; that I've done a great job coming out of the bullpen; that he'd like me to stay."

Rhodes has carved out a reputation in Baltimore as a potentially dominant, left-handed middle reliever who can occasionally close.

After several sparring sessions with manager Ray Miller over how he has been handled, manager and pitcher have forged at least a temporary truce as Miller has attempted to become more conservative with the number of times he warms Rhodes.

"You've just got to go with the flow," said Rhodes. "Wherever you're used, you have to go out and do the job. You're going to struggle at times. But it's not like I'm struggling the whole year. I have one bad game every week or two weeks, and that's it. Then I get my stuff back where I want it."

A former 10-game winner out of the bullpen, Rhodes is 3-4 with a 6.17 ERA in 35 appearances. Control problems have followed him throughout the season, leaving him with 34 walks and 70 base runners in 42 1/3 innings. He earned three saves as a stopgap during the Orioles bullpen's calamitous first half. However, Miller now uses him exclusively in middle relief.

Rhodes is seeking a four-year, $16 million deal identical to the one awarded closer Mike Timlin last November. The Orioles have responded with an offer of $10 million over the same term.

"I know I'm asking for a closer contract. If they want me, let's start working something out. Nobody has told me I'm a closer, though," Rhodes said. "I've got to look at my situation and decide on a three- or a four-year deal. Right now, a four-year deal would be great for me."

Miller downplayed reports of a trade involving Rhodes, but was less dismissive about the possibility of yesterday's starting pitcher, Juan Guzman, landing elsewhere by Saturday's midnight deadline.

Baines has pain

Designated hitter Harold Baines was in yesterday's lineup against Rangers starter Mike Morgan, whom he had flogged for a career .391 (9-for-23) average and four RBIs.

However, Baines continues to experience soreness behind his right shoulder. Miller said yesterday that Baines had received a cortisone injection for the pain.

"It hurts when I overswing," said Baines. "When I take my normal swing, it's not that noticeable."

Baines suffered his second consecutive hitless game yesterday. He still leads the team with a .631 slugging percentage and is tied for second with 21 home runs. Albert Belle's recent surge has left Baines third on the team with 67 RBIs, but still first in production per at-bat.

Baines is a pending free agent whose name has surfaced in possible deadline deals. However, the likelihood dimmed yesterday when one of his pursuers, the Toronto Blue Jays, obtained first baseman David Segui from the Seattle Mariners.

Baines now appears likely to play out the season in Baltimore, which is his preference. The Orioles have yet to broach the possibility of another one-year extension for Baines, 40, who will earn $1.5 million this season. Reminded that he negotiated his current deal last Sept. 4, Baines said jokingly, "My contract takes minutes to do, not days."

Beltre dealt

Stopping short of a blockbuster, the Orioles did add minor-league pitching depth yesterday by trading Rochester infielder Esteban Beltre to the Chicago White Sox for right-handed minor-league pitcher Mario Iglesias.

Beltre, 31, created a brief stir last spring training, but was universally considered an organizational player. He signed with the Orioles as a minor-league free agent last December after receiving 401 major-league at-bats with the White Sox, Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox.

Beltre hasn't played in the majors since 1996 and was hitting .264 with one home run, 22 RBIs and a team-high 16 errors while splitting time between shortstop and third base.

Iglesias, 25, was drafted, but not signed, by the Orioles in the 1992 amateur draft. A Stanford alum, he was 5-3 with a 4.60 ERA at Double-A Birmingham this year after going 13-1 with a 2.31 ERA at Single-A Appleton last season. He will be assigned to Bowie.

Around the horn

For ancient left-hander Jesse Orosco to break Dennis Eckersley's all-time appearance record at Camden Yards next week, he will need to appear in at least six of the Orioles' next 10 games. Otherwise, he will likely establish the mark on the team's six-game road trip to Tampa Bay and Cleveland. Miller said he was unaware of how close Orosco had drawn to Eckersley. "It's not one of those numbers, like Cal's [consecutive-games streak], where you can plot it out," he said. "It depends more on when the right situations arise." Orosco made career appearance No. 1,066 yesterday, leaving him four behind Hoyt Wilhelm and five behind Eckersley. Orosco already owns the all-time relief appearance record with 1,062 games. The Orioles traveled to Seattle last night to begin a run of 12 of 16 games on the road. Yesterday, the Orioles failed to homer for a second consecutive game; that hadn't happened since June 1-2. They have homered in 76 of 101 games.

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