Indians eye Erickson or Baines in deal


Playoff-bound Cleveland files waiver claims

trade possible today

August 27, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Orioles and Cleveland Indians are involved in fast-paced discussions that could result in a trade of starting pitcher Scott Erickson or designated hitter Harold Baines by 1 p.m. EDT today, according to sources familiar with talks that began after the Indians filed a waiver claim on both players earlier this week.

Declining to comment on the waiver issue -- considered confidential by Major League Baseball -- Orioles general manager Frank Wren downplayed the possibility of a deal.

However, the Indians are frantically searching for pitching help. They learned yesterday that they have lost starter Steve Karsay to forearm and elbow stiffness possibly for the rest of the season. Jaret Wright has been on the disabled list twice since the All-Star break and there is little organizational support for including Dwight Gooden in a postseason rotation.

The Indians and Orioles held extensive discussions regarding the durable Erickson before the July 31 waiver deadline. At the time, Indians general manager John Hart was put off by Wren's demand for a three-player package including third base prospect Russell Branyan and outfielder Richie Sexson, indicating that the package might work for Mike Mussina but not Erickson.

The Indians' plight has since worsened while Erickson continues to recover from a 1-8 start. At one point last month the club designated Erickson as "untouchable," but that label was believed more a product of an impasse with the Indians than a philosophical statement.

Erickson is on the first year of a five-year, $32 million contract. Baines is a pending free agent whom the Orioles conceivably could trade and then re-sign after the season. Such a move has been suggested to majority owner Peter Angelos, a huge Baines fan, but to little avail.

"We will always consider ways to make ourselves better for the future," Wren said, "but I can't comment on the likelihood of something happening [today]."

When a player is claimed on waivers, a team has 72 hours in which to pull the player back or consummate a trade. The Indians apparently made the claim on Tuesday afternoon.

While covetous of Erickson, the Indians are concerned that he may exercise his right to demand a trade after the season. Any player traded during a multi-year deal has that leverage.

Erickson is scheduled to start tomorrow's game against the Detroit Tigers. He has enhanced his value by winning seven of his last nine starts and lowering his ERA to a season-low 5.31.

Erickson has included two complete games in his recent run and will likely pass Mussina for second place in innings pitched with tomorrow's start.

Tonight's start up for grabs

Less than 24 hours before the Orioles were to open their series against the Tigers, manager Ray Miller and Wren were incapable (or unwilling) to divulge who would be their starting pitcher.

It will not be Mussina, whose turn falls tonight. He remains sidelined with a severely bruised right shoulder suffered against the Chicago White Sox on Sunday.

Several hours before last night's series finale against Kansas City, Miller said the decision would be governed by how deep Sidney Ponson could go against the Royals.

Ponson did his job in that respect, pitching seven innings, but lost, 6-0, to the Royals.

Miller named Jim Corsi and Al Reyes as possibilities for a start by committee. Neither pitcher had been approached before last night's game, leading to clubhouse speculation that Doug Johns might get the assignment despite pitching 2 1/3 innings Wednesday night.

Miller's proposal was for three relievers to pitch two innings apiece before involving Jesse Orosco, Arthur Rhodes and Mike Timlin for the final three.

Rhodes, sidelined since also being knocked out of Sunday's game by a one-hop shot, threw yesterday for the first time since being checked by a Baltimore hand specialist Monday. Rhodes said he could throw all his pitches with command, though his left index finger, jammed and bruised Sunday, still experienced discomfort on breaking pitches.

"I can go [tonight]," Rhodes said. "I'm not going on the DL. I've had enough of the disabled list. I'm good enough to pitch."

Miller ruled out Scott Kamieniecki, citing his former No. 5 starter's recent success in a bullpen role. Said Kamieniecki, who endorsed Miller's decision: "You've got the choice of blowing it up for one day or for four days. One day makes the most sense to me."

Clark undergoes surgery

Orioles first baseman Will Clark was first off the HealthSouth assembly line yesterday in Birmingham, Ala. Dr. James Andrews performed arthroscopic surgery to shave bone spurs from Clark's problematic left elbow just before performing shoulder surgery on Tigers starting pitcher Justin Thompson.

Wren reported that Clark's procedure went smoothly and that he will resume baseball-related activities within the next month. His season, however, is over.

As the replacement for free-agent defector Rafael Palmeiro, Clark finished with a .303 average, 10 home runs and 29 RBIs.

The season has been doubly painful for the Orioles. Not only has Clark struggled with injuries, but Palmeiro also has put together a legitimate campaign for Most Valuable Player in Texas. In August alone, Palmeiro has 14 home runs and 33 RBIs.

Around the horn

The Orioles escaped Kansas City having extended one of their most impressive statistics this decade. By gaining a split, they finished 31-21 in Kansas City during the '90, with six season-series wins and four splits. Wit lives within the Orioles' clubhouse. While a storm front moved through Kauffman Stadium before yesterday's game, one team member filled out a ticket request: "Number of tickets: Two; From: Dorothy; To: Auntie Emm "

Pub Date: 8/27/99

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