Orioles' trade front is cloudy, too

Minus marquee bait, club finds pitcher shopping slow as non-waiver deadline nears

July 28, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

Orioles vice presidents Mike Flanagan and Jim Beattie earned praise throughout the baseball industry last year when they stockpiled pitching prospects with a pair of trade deadline deals - one on July 31 and one on Aug. 31.

This year, the first of those two deadlines comes Saturday at 4 p.m., and it could very well pass without the Orioles making a deal, Flanagan said yesterday.

"At this point, it's been a slow market," he said. "That doesn't mean it can't accelerate quickly. Everyone is weighing their options. We'll know more Thursday, Friday and Saturday."

Meanwhile, as the Orioles play the waiting game on the trade front, they found themselves last night waiting just to play a game. They led the Boston Red Sox 4-2 in the third inning at Camden Yards when heavy rains started falling, and the umpires declared it a rainout after a 1-hour, 16-minute delay.

That means the teams must start over from the beginning, with the likely makeup date coming Oct. 2, as part of a doubleheader at Camden Yards.

It also means the positive developments the Orioles saw last night, from Melvin Mora's first-inning home run off Red Sox starter Tim Wakefield to B.J. Surhoff's two-run shot (in his first at-bat since coming off the disabled list) went for naught.

"You never like [a postponement] when you're ahead," said Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli, whose team has been rained out eight times this season.

In tonight's series finale, the Orioles will send Dave Borkowski to the mound for his fourth start in three years, opposite Boston's Curt Schilling.

The Orioles are trying to build momentum and turn around what has so far been a frustrating season. They have gone 7-6 since the All-Star break and sit 10 games under .500 at 44-54.

Before Saturday's deadline, teams can make trades without first passing players through waivers. The Orioles were a team to watch last year because they were offering Sidney Ponson, who was enjoying a dominant season in his free-agent walk year.

The Orioles eventually traded him to the San Francisco Giants for Kurt Ainsworth, Ryan Hannaman and Damian Moss. Injuries to Ainsworth and Hannaman have derailed the returns, but at the time, most baseball analysts said Beattie and Flanagan had made a solid deal.

During August, teams can still make trades, but the players must first be passed through waivers. The Orioles cleared Jeff Conine through waivers and shipped him to the Florida Marlins for Denny Bautista and Don Levinski. Once again, it drew positive reviews.

This year, the Orioles simply don't have a marquee trade target. So while the baseball world waits to see if the Arizona Diamondbacks will trade Randy Johnson and where the Pittsburgh Pirates will trade Kris Benson, the Orioles have been somewhat of an afterthought.

Flanagan said the team's primary goal is to bolster the starting pitching staff for this year and beyond.

The Orioles are finding only mild interest in their two second basemen, Brian Roberts and Jerry Hairston, as the Oakland Athletics appear to be the only contender with a serious need at the position.

Still, the Orioles continue to scan the market, exploring various options, including packaging a second baseman with a reliever (such as Jorge Julio or Buddy Groom) or a pitching prospect (such as Matt Riley).

Team and league sources said the Orioles also have received inquiries about Rodrigo Lopez, who tossed two perfect innings last night before it started raining and was clinging to a two-run lead when play was stopped. An Orioles official said the club has yet to hear from the pitching-thin Texas Rangers, but they expect a call from them before the deadline.

Last year, the Marlins came to the Orioles with a sudden need when third baseman Mike Lowell broke his hand, and Conine filled the void.

"There are injuries every day, and things change for teams every day," Flanagan said. "But right now, I don't think we're pushing any [good offers] away."

There have been rumblings throughout the industry that the Orioles are holding out for too much in their trade talks, but Flanagan was unapologetic when asked what they're trying to accomplish.

"A lot of teams are offering prospects," Flanagan said. "We don't think we should get prospects. We're looking for players who are major league ready or in the major leagues."

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Boston Red Sox

Site: Camden Yards

Time: 7:05

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Red Sox's Curt Schilling (12-4, 3.38) vs. Orioles' Dave Borkowski (1-2, 4.03)

O's rainouts

Opponent ....Original date....Makeup date, time

at Boston...4/13...Made up 5/31

at Boston...4/14...Made up 7/22

Seattle...4/26...8/3, 1:05 p.m.-a

at Cleveland...5/2...Made up 6/14

at Chi. (AL)...5/12...Made up 5/13

Tampa Bay...6/5...Made up 7/5

San Fran. ...6/11...Made up 6/12

Boston...7/27...TBA

Results

Past 5 games

Date....Opponent....Result....WP/LP

7/22...at Bos. (Gm. 2)...L, 0-4...Borkowski

7/23...Minnesota...L, 3-7...Maine

7/24...Minnesota...W, 4-2...Ponson

7/25...Minnesota...L, 4-8...Cabrera

7/26...Boston...L, 5-12...Bedard

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