Improve O's in just 24 hours, 10 steps

July 11, 2006|By RICK MAESE

You might have missed the small type in the transactions column, but we certainly didn't.

Orioles: Announced that [your name here] will serve as general manager for the remainder of the All-Star break.

How exciting, right? The downside: The gig pays nothing, Peter Schmuck keeps calling and hanging up and we have only one day. The upside: That's just enough time to make 10 important moves:

1. Anoint Markakis.

Let's make this one official: Nick Markakis is the starting right fielder the rest of the way. His on-base percentage (.414) and batting average (.375) during the past 30 days are better than anyone else's in the lineup. He looks more comfortable in right than anywhere else on the field, so there he stays.

2. Move Rodrigo.

The Opening Day starter doesn't belong in the starting rotation. It's no longer sensible to send Rodrigo Lopez out there every five days. Supposedly, several teams have inquired about his availability. Memo to those teams: He's yours! Take him now. Send a middle reliever down here and we'll throw in some crab cakes.

3. Call up Penn.

Even if no one eventually bites on Lopez, the Orioles need to put him in the bullpen. It's time to put the young arms into the starting rotation and give them some seasoning. Hayden Penn should have another start or two in the minors and then it's time to see what he can do against big league bats.

4. Do something with Loewen.

The obvious move is to call him up from Ottawa immediately.

The Orioles might have to be more creative now. Out of all the young pitchers, Loewen might have the highest stock of any on the trade market. Erik Bedard is untouchable; Adam Loewen is not. The front office needs to listen to offers because the tall lefty might be of more value wearing another team's uniform.

5. Decide Gibbons' fate.

Weighing the options on Jay Gibbons is not easy. He's a fan favorite who generally puts up good numbers - when he's healthy. Looking over the Orioles' roster, we don't see a lot of players who will look attractive to a playoff contender. Gibbons, though, could be that guy.

But because he's injured, he'd be too difficult to unload before the trade deadline. When he returns to the lineup, the Orioles, already lacking a natural first baseman, should try putting him there one more time. Approach it as a tryout for 2007. Gibbons hasn't played a game in left since 2001, and we don't see him serving as designated hitter next season.

6. Reassure the staff.

A key to rebuilding is establishing some semblance of stability. Manager Sam Perlozzo and his staff cannot serve as scapegoats for this year's futility. They work with what they've been given.

Perlozzo's game management decisions aren't all perfect, but he's a first-year manager who is still respected in the clubhouse.

That said, he and his staff can't wait for an influx of All-Star-caliber talent. The offensive numbers, which weren't too bad early, need to improve. The Orioles' run production and power numbers during the past four weeks have been terrible, leading only the Oakland Athletics in the American League.

7. Assess Patterson.

Corey Patterson is the most intriguing player on the Orioles' roster. He has exceeded expectations but still isn't someone you lock into a long-term deal. The Orioles should be open to that possibility once the season is over, but right now they need to see if they can't get a couple of prospects for him on the trade market.

It would be nice if Patterson worked into their long-term plans. They have to proceed with caution, though. During the past month, he has the worst on-base percentage of any of the Orioles' regular starters. That's not good for a guy who should be hitting leadoff.

8. Hold a clearance sale.

If you're not in the plans for the 2007 season, you aren't in the plans for the rest of the 2006 season. Here's the problem, though: The Orioles can't trade off Kevin Millar, Jeff Conine, Javy Lopez or Chris Gomez and get any sort of sure thing in return.

Carlos Lee and Barry Zito aren't coming in exchange for these guys. One of the goals in dangling them, though, should be to stock the Double- and Triple-A teams. A big failing in the farm system has been the scarcity of prospects worth calling up.

Also, it's time the Orioles started listening to those offers for Daniel Cabrera. He can be unhittable at times, but he's no longer untouchable when other GMs come calling. The Orioles need to find a strong bat, and if losing an arm such as Loewen's or Cabrera's is a better route than shopping the free-agent market, then you have to be willing to part ways with potential.

9. Lock up Roberts and reassure Tejada.

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