O's ponder acquiring Eckstein at short

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Ex-World Series MVP is expendable on Jays team rich with infielders

July 04, 2008|By Jeff Zrebiec and Roch Kubatko | Jeff Zrebiec and Roch Kubatko,SUN REPORTERS

Seeking to fill what has become the team's most glaring deficiency, the Orioles have engaged in talks with the Toronto Blue Jays regarding shortstop David Eckstein, according to industry sources.

Eckstein, 33, is hitting .273 with one home run and 18 RBIs in 198 at-bats. However, he has become expendable on a roster that includes infielders Marco Scutaro, John McDonald and Joe Inglett, who has seen his role increase with regular second baseman Aaron Hill injured.

Because of the glut of middle infielders, the Blue Jays' asking price for Eckstein isn't expected to be too high. The two-time All-Star and former World Series Most Valuable Player signed a one-year, $4.5 million deal with the Blue Jays and will be a free agent after the season.

The Orioles' efforts to find a shortstop have intensified since Alex Cintron went on the disabled list. They've been scouting several players, including Eckstein, 5 feet 7, and the Chicago White Sox's Juan Uribe. They also had talks with the Washington Nationals about Felipe Lopez, but their interest in him has waned, according to sources.

Since trading Miguel Tejada in December, the Orioles have used five shortstops, with Brandon Fahey becoming the latest to get regular starts. Eckstein, a member of world championship teams with the Anaheim Angels in 2002 and the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006, is a career .286 hitter over eight major league seasons.

Eckstein embodies the hard-nosed style the Orioles are trying to establish, but there are questions about his defense - especially his arm. With the Cardinals last year, Eckstein made a career-high 20 errors to go with a .960 fielding percentage, the second lowest of his career. He has nine errors in 52 games this year, with a .957 fielding percentage.

Guthrie bruised

If pitcher Jeremy Guthrie feels unlucky after being hit by a line drive while watching Wednesday night's game from the dugout, it could have been much worse. At least it wasn't his right arm.

Guthrie is sporting a bruise on his left triceps muscle after Adam Jones sent a ball screaming toward the bench. Guthrie tipped his cap at Jones before heading to the trainer's room, where he returned yesterday before batting practice.

Applying ice to the arm prevents calcium deposits from forming in the bruised area.

Guthrie said he was talking to Kevin Millar and didn't see the ball until spotting it in the corner of his eye just before impact. Perhaps that was fortunate, as Guthrie said he might have instinctively ducked and been struck in the head.

Brian Burres was positioned on the opposite side of Guthrie and thought the ball was going to hit him.

"You've got to pay attention, watch the game. I'm just glad [Guthrie] didn't get hit in the face," manager Dave Trembley said.

"I got hit the other night in the hand. The ball went in the photographers' well, ricocheted from there and played pinball down the dugout. I didn't see it either."

Rehab for Albers

Matt Albers will report to the Orioles' minor league complex in Sarasota, Fla., on Monday to begin rehabilitating the labrum tear in his right shoulder he has declined to have surgically repaired after visiting renowned orthopedic specialist Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala.

Albers won't pick up a baseball for at least three weeks before doing some light tossing. He is hoping to come off the disabled list in late August or early September.

"I'm pretty excited about it," he said. "The tear in the labrum is pretty small, so as long as I get rid of all my other problems, I should be OK. You really don't want to rush it. The best thing is try to avoid surgery. That's my main goal. I'm just trying to take my time and make sure everything's right before I rush back too soon.

"There's a possibility that, in four or five weeks, it still feels like it does, then I'll have to get surgery. But hopefully not. Hopefully I'll be able to come back."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

roch.kubatko@baltsun.com

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