Thrift says DeShields isn't on trading block for Expos deal

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Bradley still of interest, but left fielder staying

Towers gets Mussina's 35

April 29, 2001|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

MINNEAPOLIS - Vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift said last night that the club has no intention of trading outfielder Delino DeShields as part of a deal for Montreal Expos center fielder Milton Bradley. "We're not talking about trading DeShields there. We've never talked about that," he said.

The Orioles have had longstanding interest in Bradley, who recently unseated Peter Bergeron as the Expos' starting center fielder. The Expos continue to search for a left fielder/leadoff hitter, but Thrift, concerned that early trade rumors might sidetrack DeShields' recent offensive surge, insisted that no ongoing effort exists to unload him or his $4.33 million salary for this season.

The small-market Expos, according to an industry source, were interested in DeShields as part of a deal if the Orioles were willing to assume a hefty portion of his salary.

DeShields would serve as part of a push to contend within an underwhelming National League East. Should the Expos fall from contention, the source said, they would have time enough to recycle DeShields to a potential playoff team before the July 31 waiver deadline.

Thrift underscored that no such talks have reached his desk.

"That," said Thrift, "hasn't happened."

Towers gets `special' number

Friday Josh Towers learned that he had received a promotion from Rochester to the Orioles. When he arrived at the Metrodome yesterday, he learned that he would wear a number of significance.

Orioles clubhouse manager Fred Tyler promised Towers during spring training that No. 35, the number worn by staff ace Mike Mussina the previous 10 seasons and Mike Cuellar long before that, would be waiting for him when he reached Camden Yards.

"J.T. [clubhouse manager Jim Tyler] told me, `You remind me of Moose. I'm going to give you the number when you get here,' " Towers said.

Towers (2-0, 2.25 ERA in four starts at Rochester) arrived yesterday when the club officially placed first baseman David Segui on the disabled list because of a strained extensor tendon in his left hand.

The move was made retroactive to April 23, meaning Segui could return as early as May 8 when the team returns to Tampa Bay. It was against the Devil Rays that Segui suffered the injury when shortstop Felix Martinez landed on his left hand in the ninth inning of last Sunday's 10-8 Orioles win.

Segui returned to Baltimore after Thursday's game in Detroit to be examined. The tendon injury prevented Segui from moving the middle finger on his hand, which will remain in a cast for the next six days, manager Mike Hargrove said yesterday.

"We'll know more when the cast comes off," Hargrove said when asked whether Segui will be activated when eligible.

Towers' arrival was delayed by about eight months because of an injury sustained in a domestic accident. He was due a September promotion because of an 8-6 record, 3.47 ERA and five complete games. Towers had worn No. 16 throughout his minor-league career and at Hueneme High in Oxnard (Calif.) High School. But with Jason Johnson wearing No. 16 he said No. 35 "felt comfortable on my back."

If there is any pressure associated with inheriting the number of a pitcher who won 147 games and earned five All-Star berths with the team, Towers does not yet feel it.

"I always wanted it. It means something to me," said Towers. "It's No. 35. It's special. But I hope people don't ask me to take his place. Those are pretty big shoes to fill."

Mussina has yet to face his former team since signing a five-year, $88.5 million contract with the New York Yankees. The teams begin a four-game series Thursday at Camden Yards.

Tyler explained the uniform assignment succinctly: "We typically give pitchers numbers in the 30s and 40s. It was an open number."

Several numbers in that range are held by injured pitcher Luis Rivera and outfielder Luis Matos and recently optioned John Bale. The only other available number in the traditional range described by Tyler was No. 46, previously worn by Mike Flanagan, who won 141 games for the Orioles in 15 seasons.

Hairston keeps swinging

Jerry Hairston is hacking, but he can't get up.

The Orioles' second baseman continues to struggle since enjoying a three-hit game on Opening Day. An 0-for-3 last night left his average at .165. He is in a 3-for-38 (.079) funk covering his last 11 games. Hairston doesn't own a multi-hit game since Opening Day.

"It's something everybody has to deal with at some point during a season," said Hairston, a .257 hitter in 105 major-league games entering this season. "You keep working and working at it, and eventually something good will happen. I've had a string of tough at-bats. It's the game. B. J. Surhoff is dealing with same thing [in Atlanta] right now. Eventually, you get going. At the end of the season, if I'm hitting .280 we'll be able to look back at this and laugh."

Hairston is not slumping for lack of opportunity or willingness to make adjustments.

Because the Orioles lack a backup middle infielder, Hairston has started 23 of the Orioles' 24 games and has 79 at-bats, third-most on the team. He scored after a walk for his 10th run and has five RBIs but also has committed a team-high four errors.

"Hitting is rhythm but it's also feel," said Hairston, who recently dropped his hands in an attempt to shorten his swing. "If you don't feel good in the box, you're not going to hit. I don't feel great, but I'm starting to feel better."

Around the horn

Mike Bordick, Melvin Mora and Hairston are still scratching for their first multi-RBI game. Bordick, however, has a team-high 25 hits, eight for extra bases. His RBI opportunities have been limited by the lagging on-base percentages of Hairston (.229) and Brady Anderson (.268). ... The Orioles have scored only four runs in both the sixth and eighth innings. They have allowed at least seven in every inning. ... The Twins' Doug Mientkiewicz extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a double.

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