Jackson back in Orioles' plans

Reliever's agent talks with Thrift

team waits on Rhodes

November 23, 1999|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

While the Orioles wait for left-hander Arthur Rhodes to decide where he'll pitch next season, they've resumed talks with the agent for another reliever, the Cleveland Indians' Mike Jackson, who had appeared to fall out of their plans last week.

Syd Thrift, the Orioles' director of player personnel, spoke with Laurie Gildan yesterday concerning Jackson.

"As long as we keep conversing, we have an interest. We have a lot more things to do than waste time talking to people about something that's not going to happen," Thrift said.

The St. Louis Cardinals had scheduled a news conference Friday to announce Jackson's signing, but it was canceled without explanation. Thrift previously had spoken with Gildan, though no offer was made. She said last week that she would welcome one from the Orioles but was busy pursuing other avenues.

"I told her I'd get back to her," Thrift said yesterday.

Jackson served as the Indians' closer under new Orioles manager Mike Hargrove, a job Mike Timlin held with the Orioles last season. Timlin rebounded from an unsteady first half to convert 18 of his last 19 save chances. He could get competition next spring from right-hander Mike Trombley, who signed a three-year deal last week after recording 24 saves in 30 opportunities with the Minnesota Twins last season.

Meanwhile, Thrift said he's in a "state of inquiry" regarding Rhodes, who is seeking a four-year deal worth more than $3 million a season. "We're trying to evaluate our situation," Thrift said. "I don't know which way they're leaning."

Rhodes' agent, Dan Horwits, said he expects the reliever to decide before Thursday. At least six clubs are believed to have made offers for Rhodes, including the New York Yankees, who are willing to give him four years. Asked whether the Orioles would do likewise, Horwits said: "We've talked parameters, but that's it. I wouldn't say they're not willing to go four years."

Thrift also continues to hold discussions with Michael Watkins, the agent for first baseman Jeff Conine. They spoke Saturday, and Thrift said he plans to contact Watkins again today. The Orioles haven't made a firm offer, but Thrift said one is forthcoming.

"I'd say we're OK. It's just that [Watkins] has been traveling and we've been traveling. But I think we understand each other. I think it's workable," Thrift said.

Thrift also spoke with Alan Hendricks, the agent for reliever Scott Kamieniecki, during the weekend and plans further discussions. Kamieniecki has said he prefers to remain with the Orioles, in the same bullpen role former manager Ray Miller created for him last season.

The club retains strong interest in Anaheim Angels free agent Chuck Finley, who would provide the rotation with the left-hander it lacked last season beyond Doug Johns' five starts. Thrift and Finley's agent, Tim Shannon, missed each other with calls on Friday. "Things are on hold," Thrift said.

Thrift has talked to Steve Fehr, the agent for Yankees starter David Cone, once and senses the veteran right-hander doesn't want to leave the two-time defending world champions. "I felt that way four years ago, and New York hasn't changed its geography," he said. "I looked at my map over the weekend, and it remains in the same place it was four years ago."

While the Orioles continue to examine ways to improve the club and end a string of two losing seasons, second baseman Jerry Hairston remains uncertain whether he'll have arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder.

A magnetic resonance imaging test two weeks ago confirmed that Hairston has a slight tear in his labrum. He has been rehabbing the shoulder in Houston and swung the bat for the first time yesterday, but will meet with Orioles trainer Richie Bancells and team orthopedist Dr. Michael Jacobs in Baltimore tomorrow to discuss his condition.

Hairston has been receiving advice. The Houston Astros' Lance Berkman had his shoulder 'scoped yesterday to correct the same injury and was told he would be completely recovered in about a month. One of Hairston's friends, the Atlanta Braves' George Lombard, had the procedure done around this time last year and recommended that the Orioles infielder wait.

"He felt pretty good, but he really didn't feel that great in spring training," said Hairston, who left his winter league team in Venezuela after three games because of pain in the shoulder. "I asked him straight out, `Should I rehab this thing and try to avoid surgery?' and he said, `I'd probably do that.' That's why I haven't had it 'scoped yet.

"I'm still leaning toward not having the surgery, but it's one of those things where if I have it done, I may run the risk of not being ready for spring training, though everybody says I will. But if I don't have it done, I don't want it to blow out on me in June. It's one of those things where I may have to flip a coin here and gamble. I'll have to have it done eventually. There's no getting around it because it's torn."

Hairston took some swings yesterday off soft tosses and said, "It felt good.

"It does ache sometimes. It does hurt. But the bottom line is there was no pain when I swung, so that was very positive," he said. "I've been rehabbing it every day for about 2 1/2 weeks. I've really been killing this thing."

If Hairston chooses to delay the surgery, he'll have it done immediately after next season.

"Hopefully it'll be in October after we win the World Series," he said. "I may not be able to hoist the trophy over my head, but I'll hold it."

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