O's talking with pitcher Looper's agent

Baseball Notes

January 29, 2009|By Jeff Zrebiec and Dan Connolly | Jeff Zrebiec and Dan Connolly and,jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com and dan.connolly@baltsun.com

Still seeking an innings-eater for the middle of their rotation, the Orioles continue to have talks with the representative of free-agent pitcher Braden Looper, according to industry sources.

Looper, a 34-year-old right-hander who has been a starter for only two seasons, went 12-14 with a 4.16 ERA in 33 starts and a career-high 199 innings for the St. Louis Cardinals last year.

Orioles president Andy MacPhail wouldn't comment last night on the team's interest in any specific player, but he has said repeatedly that the club is monitoring the free-agent pitching market.

With the start of spring training looming and some of the momentum dropping out of the market, the Orioles are hoping one of the remaining free-agent starters falls into their price range. Earlier this offseason, Looper was looking for a three-year, $24 million deal, according to sources, but like most of the free agents still available, that asking price has likely dropped.

Veteran right-hander Jon Garland, who was seeking a long-term deal worth about $12 million per season, agreed to terms yesterday on a one-year deal plus a mutual option with the Arizona Diamondbacks for a reported $6.25 million in base salary.

Alan Hendricks, Looper's agent, didn't return a phone call seeking comment yesterday. The Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh Pirates are among the teams reportedly talking with Looper.

Looper, who has World Series rings from the 2003 Florida Marlins and the 2006 Cardinals, was a reliever for his first eight seasons in the majors. He saved 85 games from 2003 to 2005, the first season with the Marlins and the next two with the New York Mets.

Looper was moved to the rotation in 2006 with the Cardinals, going 12-12 with a 4.94 ERA while making 39 starts. For his career, Looper, who had a standout career at Wichita State and was the third overall pick in the 1996 draft, is 58-63 with a 3.93 ERA and 103 saves.

If he signed with the Orioles, he would likely fill the No. 3 spot in the rotation behind Jeremy Guthrie and Koji Uehara.

More Orioles: : The club will give fans a sneak peek at this season's team as part of FanFest on April 4. The club will host an open workout and activities to celebrate the start of the season from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Camden Yards. Events include autograph and question and answer sessions with current and former players and coaches, fan forums and interactive activities for families. Tickets go on sale today at 10 a.m. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children 14 and under and fans 55 and over. Tickets can be purchased online at www.orioles.com, by phone at 1-888-848-BIRD or in person at the Orioles' box office.

Mariners-Cubs: : Seattle traded reliever Aaron Heilman, obtained from the Mets last month, to Chicago for infielder Ronny Cedeno and left-hander Garrett Olson. A failed reliever with the Mets, Heilman, 30, could get the chance to start that he wants in Chicago. Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik said Cedeno will compete for a job at second base and shortstop and that Olson will get the chance to join the rotation. The Cubs acquired Olson from the Orioles on Jan. 18 for outfielder Felix Pie.

Bonds: : Twenty federal agents raided the home of the mother-in-law of Barry Bonds' personal trainer. Madeleine Gestas and her daughter Nicole Anderson, the trainer's wife, are the target of a tax investigation that Greg Anderson's lawyer said is aimed at pressuring the trainer to testify at Bonds' trial.

Et cetera: : The Yankees are considering including a "nondisparagement clause" in future player and managerial contracts to prevent tell-all books such as The Yankee Years, co-written by Joe Torre and Tom Verducci, a source told Newsday. ... Rangers relief pitcher Joaquin Benoit will miss at least half the season after surgery to repair a torn right rotator cuff. ... Reliever David Weathers and the Reds avoided salary arbitration by agreeing to a one-year contract that guarantees him $3.9 million. ... Infielder Maicer Izturis and the Angels avoided salary arbitration, agreeing to a one-year contract worth $1.6 million. ... Former Orioles first baseman Will Clark is coming back to the Giants as a special assistant.

Sun news services contributed to this article.

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