Dealt into wild-card race, veteran glad to join Phils


August 28, 2006|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,Sun Reporter

Brian Roberts, one of Jeff Conine's closest friends on the Orioles, went out to dinner with Conine on Saturday night and, as he joked, "got the hugs and kisses over with."

Conine and his teammates were aware of the trade talk between the Orioles and the Philadelphia Phillies revolving around the popular 40-year-old veteran. Conine arrived at Camden Yards yesterday morning, fully expecting to get called into manager Sam Perlozzo's office to learn that the deal had been completed.

Instead, he would wait several more hours and play a major role in the Orioles' 5-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays with two RBIs, including the game-tying double in the eighth inning. When the Orioles retreated to the clubhouse after their third straight win, the trade had become official and Conine, who has two World Series rings from the Florida Marlins, was set to join a team that is just one game out of the National League wild-card lead.

"Once you've been [to the playoffs], you want to go back every year, because it's the most satisfying, enjoyable, exciting time of an athlete's life," Conine said. "I don't care how many rings you have, how many pennants you've won or how many times you've made it to the postseason. Every single year, you want to do it again.

"I guess with all the talk and the stuff leading up to today, I can't say I was surprised. But when you get that final word, there's some excitement and a little bit of sadness, too, because I'm leaving a great place. When you end your reign in this game, what you have left is your friends and your memories."

The news that Conine and cash considerations were headed to Philadelphia for a player to be named was met with mixed emotions from teammates.

"It's bittersweet," said Orioles designated hitter Jay Gibbons. "He's going to a team that has a chance to win, and hopefully he'll do some magic like he did a few years ago. It's sad to see him go. After the first [trade] deadline, we thought we had him next year. Hopefully, he's off to bigger and better things."

The player the Orioles will get in return for Conine, who finished his second tour of duty for the club with a .265 average, nine home runs and 49 RBIs, won't be known for a couple of days. The player is likely on the Phillies' 40-man roster, meaning he'll have to pass through waivers before the trade is complete.

However, it is believed that the Orioles will get one of the following Triple-A players: infielder Angel Chavez, left-handed starter Eude Brito or right-handed reliever Brian Sanches. Chavez, 25, is hitting .271 with five home runs and 26 RBIs. Brito, 28, is 10-8 with a 3.30 ERA this season, and Sanches, 28, is 3-2 with a 1.79 ERA and 17 saves.

The Orioles also are expected to send $550,000 to the Phillies to help offset Conine's $2 million option next season.

Orioles vice president Jim Duquette said the trade was the right move for the organization.

"I think it is a good fit," Duquette said. "It is a good opportunity for him to go on. You don't have many opportunities to go on and play in the playoffs. As we said in the office, `Next year, when we're in this thing, we'll try to trade for him back.'"

Conine, who has played 16 major league seasons, has said next year will likely be his last. He is expected to platoon in right field with former Oriole David Dellucci for the Phillies.

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