O's get outfielder Matthews for lefty Bale

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Ex-Met has all `tools,' according to O's Thrift

April 04, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

The Orioles didn't make it through two games without pulling off their first trade, sending pitcher John Bale to the New York Mets last night for outfielder Gary Matthews Jr.

Bale had cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Rochester yesterday. He was designated for assignment following Saturday's exhibition game in Louisville, Ky.

To make room for Matthews, the Orioles optioned outfielder Larry Bigbie to Rochester after last night's 1-0 loss to the New York Yankees. They cleared space for him on the 40-man roster by transferring Chris Richard, who's recovering from off-season shoulder surgery, to the 60-day disabled list.

Bale came to the Orioles during the 2000 winter meetings for catcher Jayson Werth, a former No. 1 draft pick who's now rated among the Toronto Blue Jays' top prospects. Bale was recalled twice by the Orioles last season, going 1-0 with a 3.04 ERA in 14 games. He allowed three earned runs and eight hits in six innings this spring and frustrated club officials with his inability to stay healthy.

Bale complained again of stiffness in his left elbow, though a magnetic resonance imaging test and arthrogram didn't reveal any problems. He had surgery during the winter to remove a band of tissue.

Matthews, 27, is joining his fourth major-league team since 2001. He broke in with the San Diego Padres in 1999 and also has played for the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates. Matthews, the son of the former major-league outfielder of the same name, pinch-ran for the Mets yesterday before the trade was completed.

"We like him because he's what you call a tools player," said Syd Thrift, vice president for baseball operations. "He's got a plus-arm, he's a plus-runner, he's got plus-power. We'll turn him over to Dr. Crow [hitting coach Terry Crowley] and let him work his magic."

Matthews, a switch-hitter who can play all three outfield positions, batted .227 with 14 homers and 44 RBIs in his first full major-league season in 2001. He was traded to the Mets in December. Because he's out of minor-league options, the Orioles are more likely to continue trying to trade catcher Fernando Lunar or send down outfielder Luis Garcia if pitcher Calvin Maduro comes off the disabled list this weekend.

Bigbie was supposed to report to Rochester on Monday, but his travel plans changed when outfielder Marty Cordova went on the DL with a strained right quadriceps.

Waiting on Maduro

Hargrove indicated yesterday that the club remains uncertain whether Maduro will make Sunday's start against the Boston Red Sox, with a decision perhaps not coming until "right up to the last second."

Maduro will throw on the side today after going five innings in Monday's game at the minor-league complex in Sarasota, Fla. Maduro threw 78 pitches and reported no discomfort from a strained right forearm muscle.

"I felt really good," he said. "I didn't wake up sore the next day, which is a big plus."

Maduro said he threw all of his pitches in preparation for his debut as the Orioles' No. 5 starter - a job he won in spring training after holding opponents to one run in 12 innings.

"Whatever decision they make, I'll be ready," he said.

Maduro is eligible to come off the disabled list on Saturday, which would increase the pitching staff to 12. The club must make a corresponding move, raising speculation that any delays involving Maduro might be tied to their continuing attempts to trade Lunar.

Hargrove denied such a motive, saying, "It has everything to do with whether Calvin's ready or not."

He added: "The report we got in Sarasota was that he threw the ball well. Hopefully he'll be ready."

Bauer awaits his chance

Once ticketed for Triple-A Rochester's rotation, Rick Bauer sat in the Orioles' bullpen last night awaiting his first appearance of the season. It could come Sunday if Maduro is not ready to make his start. It could come in relief if a starter gets knocked out early.

It could come with the Red Wings if the Orioles decide to send him down. "I'll take whatever role they give me and do the best I can," he said.

Bauer made six starts with the Orioles last season after a September call-up, losing all five decisions but pitching better than the numbers showed. He was included among the March 19 cuts and optioned to Rochester, but the Orioles summoned him when Maduro went on the disabled list.

Perhaps he'll evolve into more than an insurance policy. Though still projected as a starter, the Orioles have no qualms about continuing his professional maturation in a major-league bullpen.

"It's better to face major-league hitters and get that experience," he said. "Maybe that'll be my calling. I'd prefer to pitch every fifth day, but who doesn't? Any pitcher would pretty much want to do that, but I'll just go with the role that's given to me right now.

"If I make some starts here and there because of injuries, so be it. And if they turn me into a starter late in the year, that's fine. Right now I want to get used to facing major-league hitters out of the bullpen and do my job that way. As long as I'm doing that, I can't go wrong. If the choice is going down to Triple-A and starting, I'd rather be up here."

Et cetera

Maryland's national champion basketball coach Gary Williams, who attended last night's game and received a standing ovation when shown on the video screen, will throw out the first pitch before tomorrow's game against Boston.

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