Undecided Nevin touches all bases

First baseman talks with Mazzilli, Gomez, Sutcliffe about possible trade to Orioles

July 25, 2005|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The Orioles made their pitch. Now, it's up to Phil Nevin to decide if he wants to waive his limited no-trade clause and take his cuts in an Orioles uniform.

Manager Lee Mazzilli spoke yesterday by phone to Nevin, the first baseman whom the San Diego Padres have agreed to trade to the Orioles for pitcher Sidney Ponson pending Nevin's approval, and outlined his expected role with the Orioles.

Nevin also called Orioles utility infielder Chris Gomez, his former teammate in Detroit and San Diego and also a California native, to ask about playing for the Orioles. Nevin's agent, Barry Axelrod, said the conversations went well, though his client hasn't come to a decision.

"Lee is very passionate," said Axelrod. "It's almost like having someone lay out all the things that they do in the free-agent process, almost like recruiting. He was very convincing on what his role might be. Phil got some answers."

Nevin, who traveled to the West Coast with the Padres after they lost in Philadelphia yesterday, has until 9 p.m. Eastern time tomorrow to notify the parties of his decision. That's a 72-hour window because the Orioles and Padres reported the agreement to Major League Baseball officials Saturday, said an industry source.

"I think it is still up in the air," said Axelrod, who also spoke to Orioles executive vice president Jim Beattie yesterday. "Phil's operating on raw emotions right now. He's still coming to grips with the fact that his days in San Diego might be numbered one way or the other. He hasn't said anything about timing, but I know that it won't be until he spends time with his family."

Axelrod said the Orioles invited Nevin, who was not in the lineup yesterday and may not be until his decision, to go straight from Philadelphia to Baltimore last night, where he could meet some of the Orioles when they arrived home from Florida and take a tour of Camden Yards.

Nevin and Axelrod, however, decided it would be best for Nevin to return to his San Diego home and begin discussing the decision with his wife, Kristin, and their three children, who were returning to California from Hawaii last night.

"I have a certain amount of time to make a decision, and I'm going to use that time," Nevin told reporters in Philadelphia.

Axelrod declined to quantify the deal's chances of going through. Two years ago, Nevin used his limited no-trade clause to quash a deal to the Cincinnati Reds for Ken Griffey, but Axelrod said Nevin, 34, seemed more open to at least discussing this trade, because his status in San Diego's lineup has changed.

The Padres acquired third baseman Joe Randa from the Reds on Saturday and plan to move Xavier Nady to first. Axelrod said San Diego manager Bruce Bochy met with Nevin, who is hitting .263 with nine homers and 47 RBIs, on Saturday night, and essentially told him he'd be a part-time player if he stays.

However, the Orioles, in need of a right-handed bat and somebody to spell veteran Rafael Palmeiro at first, told Nevin he'd hit "somewhere in the middle of the lineup and be playing everyday," Axelrod said.

Mazzilli wouldn't comment, though Gomez said it was obvious Nevin was wrestling with a tough decision.

"He's made his home now in San Diego," Gomez said. "I think that's where he'd like to stay, but the circumstances make him have to make a decision.

"I wanted to be honest with him. It doesn't take much selling. It's just different. It's the East Coast, a different league. I just said it's a good place to play, a good lineup to hit in and good guys on the team."

Nevin's agent said the player, who has also consulted with former Oriole Rick Sutcliffe, another of Axelrod's clients, is intrigued by the prospect of being in the Orioles' lineup at more hitter-friendly Camden Yards.

There were some industry rumors that the Orioles would turn around and trade Nevin to the Los Angeles Dodgers, possibly for Jeff Weaver, but Axelrod said Beattie told him the rumors were untrue.

Axelrod said Nevin would want to talk with Palmeiro before consenting to the deal.

"If he did this, Phil would like to know that it is OK with Rafael Palmeiro," said Axelrod.

NOTE: According to an industry source, the Texas Rangers would be interested in Ponson, for either a prospect or outfielder Richard Hidalgo, if the Padres deal falls through. But the Orioles still would have to absorb some of Ponson's contract.

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