OAKLAND, Calif. - A pair of Cy Young Award winners will be on the mound tonight at Network Associates Coliseum, with Barry Zito starting for the Oakland Athletics against the Orioles' Pat Hentgen.
It's Cy Young vs. Cy Old, with an added twist: Hentgen could become a trade target for the A's as they look to replace injured left-hander Mark Mulder.
"I don't make too much of that," said Hentgen, who won the Cy Young for the Toronto Blue Jays in 1996. "Every time you take the mound, you're auditioning for the team you're playing against and all the scouts in the stands."
The A's reportedly were targeting Blue Jays right-hander Kelvim Escobar for a possible trade, but Toronto tried passing him through waivers and the Minnesota Twins put in a claim, so the Blue Jays pulled him back.
Now Escobar can't be traded, and it's uncertain if the A's will keep looking to deal or stick with Rich Harden and Ted Lilly behind Zito and Tim Hudson.
"There's not a whole lot out there," A's general manager Billy Beane told the Oakland Tribune.
When Orioles manager Mike Hargrove looks ahead to 2004, he's not even sure he'll be around, but he does think it would benefit the team to have a highly respected veteran like Hentgen on the pitching staff.
Hentgen, who turns 35 in November, is 4-1 with a 3.11 ERA in his past eight starts.
"I think it's important that you have a stabilizing influence like that," Hargrove said. "If you have an opportunity, for me, it's preferred. Right now, he's been our most dependable guy."
The Orioles hold a $4 million option on Hentgen's contract, and he said he'd prefer to stay.
"How could you not like Baltimore? It's great," he said. "Hargrove's awesome. Mark [Wiley, pitching coach] is great. The coaching staff is really good. It's a fun place to play."
Kurt Ainsworth has been toiling in anonymity since the Orioles acquired him from the San Francisco Giants in the July 31 trade for Sidney Ponson, but Ainsworth is gradually recovering from a fractured right shoulder blade.
Today, Ainsworth will throw off a mound for the first time since the injury was diagnosed in late June.
"I'm anxious to see that," Hargrove said.
The Orioles are still hoping Ainsworth can pitch in games before the season ends, but he likely would pitch only in relief.
Julio `still the closer'
Jorge Julio restored some confidence when he pitched a scoreless eighth inning in Sunday's 7-0 loss to the Yankees in New York. Yet, for now, Hargrove still sounds committed to letting matchups determine who pitches to whom in save situations.
Hargrove pulled Julio after he loaded the bases in the ninth inning of a one-run game on Friday night, and in Julio's two previous appearances he allowed four home runs.
"He's still the closer," Hargrove said. "We're just trying to ease him through a rough period."
Steve Dalkowski, the legendary left-handed fastball pitcher who bounced around the Orioles' minor league system in the 1950s and 1960s, is scheduled to throw out the first pitch before the Orioles' game against the Seattle Mariners at Camden Yards on Sept. 7.
Dalkowski, now 64, set numerous records for walks and strikeouts in his decade in the minors but never reached the major leagues. Rumored to throw more than 100 mph, he has battled alcoholism and dementia since leaving baseball.
Arden Courts, an assisted living facility in Pikesville, is celebrating Dalkowski's appearance with a luncheon in the Designated Hitters Lounge before the game. Fans interested in purchasing tickets for the luncheon and game can contact Audrey Turner of Arden Courts at 410-415-7403.
Around the horn
In his first game action in three months, Jerry Hairston went 2-for-4 with a home run, two runs and two RBIs last night for Double-A Bowie in a rehabilitation assignment in Harrisburg, Pa. Melvin Mora went 1-for-4 and scored a run. ... The A's will start left-hander John Halama in tomorrow's series finale opposite Rodrigo Lopez. Halama has the fourth-lowest ERA (2.47) against the Orioles among active pitchers with at least five starts against them.
Sun staff writer John Eisenberg contributed to this article.