Fishing O's cast line to Marlins' Burnett

Florida wants young arms in return for right-hander

December 15, 2004|By Roch Kubatko and Joe Christensen | Roch Kubatko and Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

Unable to sign or acquire a front-line starting pitcher at the winter meetings that concluded Monday, the Orioles appear to be turning more of their attention toward Florida Marlins right-hander A.J. Burnett.

A source close to Burnett said the pitcher has been made aware of the Orioles' interest in him. Burnett was 7-6 with a 3.68 ERA in 20 games with the Marlins last season.

Team executives Jim Beattie and Mike Flanagan left Anaheim, Calif., still hoping to plant a veteran starter atop their rotation, but they also were prepared to enter 2005 with the same collection of young arms behind Sidney Ponson.

Beattie didn't return calls last night, but Flanagan said the front office hasn't become discouraged by its inability to add a starter or upgrade the lineup.

"The difference between now and a couple years ago is, if we didn't have players at the lower levels of the minor leagues, if we didn't have players that a lot of teams covet, and if we didn't have money, I think I'd be frustrated," he said. "There are other avenues. A couple years ago, there was not."

Before returning to Baltimore, Beattie said, "Certainly, getting something done and moving along would be energizing, but at this time, we're grinding. There's some pieces out there, too - bullpen pieces. There's a lot of things we're trying to work as well."

An official with the Oakland Athletics indicated yesterday that no progress was made in the Orioles' pursuit of Tim Hudson or Barry Zito.

Oakland general manager Billy Beane has insisted on acquiring Erik Bedard, John Maine and Hayden Penn in exchange for Hudson, but he won't allow the Orioles a 72-hour window to negotiate an extension with Hudson, who can become a free agent after next season.

Burnett also has one year left on his contract, and the Marlins have the same desire to acquire young pitching in return. They also are seeking a left-handed-hitting outfielder.

New Marlins pitching coach Mark Wiley is familiar with the Orioles' stable of arms. He held the same job with them before being reassigned to a scouting position on June 26.

In six seasons, Burnett has gone 37-38 with a 3.83 ERA over 102 games. He had ligament-reconstructive surgery on his right elbow that limited him to four appearances in 2003.

The Orioles also would want to negotiate an extension with Burnett before completing a trade.

Speaking in general terms and not specifically about Burnett, Flanagan said, "As a blanket policy, that's the way we would probably do it. We'd like to have that, especially with a player we covet. And I think it influences what you're going to offer back.

"It's two different scenarios. If you're talking about a guy you're going to have for one year, you're talking one set of players. If you're talking somebody long-term, you'll probably step it up a bit."

Meanwhile, the Seattle Mariners could hold a news conference today announcing that they've reached agreement with first baseman Richie Sexson on a four-year, $48 million contract. Sexson took a physical examination on Monday and though a source in Seattle said he passed it, the Mariners may request additional tests. Sexson appeared in only 23 games last season because of a shoulder injury in April that broke a streak of 1,642 consecutive innings played.

The Orioles made an offer to Sexson believed to be in the neighborhood of the four-year, $45 million deal that the Arizona Diamondbacks gave third baseman Troy Glaus.

Running out of options at first base, they remain interested in Carlos Delgado and again contacted agent David Sloane yesterday, though a source close to the negotiations referred to them as "kind of a housekeeping sort of discussion." Sloane boarded a plane last night for his South Florida home, which is located about 20 minutes from the Orioles' spring training site.

Baseball insiders speculate that Delgado is waiting to see if the New York Yankees enter the negotiations. His four-year, $68 million contract expired after the season, and it's believed that he wants to avoid taking a sizable pay cut.

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