O's add Daal, give rotation spin to the left

Left-handed starter, 30, agrees to two-year deal

signing is set for today

He was 11-9 with L.A. in 2002

O's will be his sixth club

`left-handers pretty hard to find,' says VP Flanagan

Baseball

January 03, 2003|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

For the first time in five seasons, the Orioles will have a left-hander in their rotation for more than spot duty.

Omar Daal, who went 11-9 with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2002, is scheduled to take a physical in Baltimore today after agreeing to a two-year contract. The team is expected to announce his signing later this afternoon.

An industry source indicated Daal's contract is guaranteed for $7.5 million. He earned $5 million last season.

Daal, 30, was on the Orioles' original calling list as they began to target free agents and players made available in trades, but negotiations didn't heat up until Tuesday night.

"He thought he'd pitch more innings in this league," said Mike Flanagan, vice president of baseball operations. "He said he was sort of tired of being pinch-hit for in a 1-1 game in the National League. At least he'll get to stay in a 1-1 game here."

A reliever during the early phase of his professional career, Daal will be used exclusively as a starter. The rotation already includes Rodrigo Lopez, who won 15 games as a rookie last season, and veterans Scott Erickson, Pat Hentgen, Sidney Ponson and Jason Johnson.

"We still need two more starters to catch the Yankees," Flanagan quipped.

"You never have enough pitching. You take pitching where you can get it."

Erickson has a slight tear in the labrum of his right shoulder but expects to be ready for spring training without having surgery. With Sean Douglass, Rick Bauer and John Stephens also candidates for the rotation this year, the Orioles could include one of their starters in a trade as they continue to search for a hitter to plug into the middle of their lineup.

Daal, a native of Venezuela, represents the Orioles' first full-time left-handed starter since Jimmy Key in 1998. Doug Johns and Matt Riley made brief appearances the next year. John Parrish received eight starts in 2000, and Chuck McElroy made five in 2001.

"There haven't been too many left-handers," said Flanagan, who filled that role for the Orioles while winning the Cy Young Award in 1979. "That's one of the things that, at the end of the season, [manager] Mike Hargrove said, `It would be nice if we had a left-handed starter.' But they're pretty hard to find."

Daal has pitched for five organizations, including the Dodgers twice. He returned to Los Angeles last season in a trade with the Philadelphia Phillies and posted a 3.90 ERA. He has gone 64-67 with a 4.40 ERA since breaking into the majors 10 years ago, with his best season coming in 1999, when he went 16-9 with a 3.65 ERA with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The next year, Daal was packaged to the Phillies in the Curt Schilling trade and went 4-19, winning twice for the Diamondbacks and twice for Philadelphia while leading the National League in losses. Remove that season from his resume, and he's 40-25 over the past four years. And that doesn't include the 1998 season, when he was 8-12 but ranked fifth in the NL with a 2.88 ERA.

"There's been one blip," Flanagan said. "I give him credit for going back out there as a 19-game loser. There's something to be said about character building. But four of the last five years, he's been outstanding."

Flanagan said the Orioles haven't made any other contract offers. They retain interest in former Blue Jays outfielder Jose Cruz, who became a free agent when Toronto declined to offer him arbitration, and continue to wait on catcher Ivan Rodriguez.

"We've got some irons in the fire," Flanagan said, "but we don't have anything really on the table."

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