Pitching Is The Early Priority

O's Discuss Millwood Trade, Check Bedard's Medical Records

December 08, 2009|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec , jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

INDIANAPOLIS - -The Orioles' focus on Day One of baseball's winter meetings was on trying to upgrade a pitching staff that has been one of the worst in baseball. Team officials met with the Texas Rangers on Monday to discuss a potential deal for veteran pitcher Kevin Millwood, and Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail also confirmed that the team is in possession of the medical records of free-agent starter Erik Bedard.

MacPhail will meet with Bedard's agent, Mark Pieper, in the next couple of days to discuss bringing back the team's former ace, who was traded to the Seattle Mariners before the 2008 season in a deal that spearheaded MacPhail's rebuilding project.

The Orioles' interest in Bedard hinges on the health of the 30-year-old pitcher, who had his left labrum cleaned out Aug. 14.

"All that medical stuff is in the hands of our doctors," MacPhail said. "You have your medical people make that decision, not us."

According to a source with knowledge of the situation, Bedard's rehabilitation is going well and he's on target to be ready to pitch within the first couple of weeks of April. The left-hander was limited to 30 starts over the past two seasons for the Mariners, but he still has attracted interest from a number of teams, including Seattle.

"I had a very good relationship with Erik," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "I think you need to know that a guy can be counted on to pitch every fifth day. His name's on the board. There's a lot of other guys' names on the board, and I think that's one of the first things that people look at: Where are these guys medically? I don't think we're in a position to get a guy and he can't pitch until June. If we're going to get a guy, we need a guy who's going to pitch in the beginning of the year."

While Bedard would be considered a high-risk, high-reward signing, the acquisition of Millwood would be aimed at adding a veteran innings-eater to pitch at the top of the rotation. The 34-year-old right-hander, who has 155 wins over parts of 13 big league seasons, is entering the final year of his contract, in which he is due to make $12 million.

According to sources, the Orioles would want the cash-strapped Rangers to absorb some of that money, and the amount Texas is willing to eat would determine the player they would get in return for the pitcher.

MacPhail wouldn't comment specifically on Millwood, but he did say that he would have no problem acquiring a pitcher in the final year of his contract. While one team source said a deal between the clubs isn't imminent, he described the trade talks as "ongoing."

* On the bullpen front, the Orioles are interested in free-agent reliever Rafael Soriano, who had 27 saves in 31 chances while posting a 2.97 ERA for the Atlanta Braves last year. He appears to be the Orioles' primary target among a group of free-agent closers that includes Jose Valverde, Fernando Rodney and Mike Gonzalez.

But the Orioles might not even get to make Soriano an offer. The right-hander had until midnight Monday to decide whether to accept arbitration from the Braves and return on a one-year deal.

If he declined and the Orioles signed him, the Orioles would lose a second-round pick as Soriano is a Type-A free agent. Although MacPhail would prefer to not lose a draft pick, it would not be a deal breaker because it would allow the Orioles to spend more money on later-round picks who might fall in the draft because of perceived signability issues.

Kevin Gregg, who lost his closing job with the Chicago Cubs last season, is another option at closer, and he wouldn't require a draft pick, but the Orioles see him more as a seventh- or eighth-inning pitcher, according to team sources.

* In various trade talks with clubs Monday, MacPhail said that teams have inquired about "no shortage of names" on the Orioles. Several team sources identified outfielder Felix Pie as having drawn a lot of inquiries.

However, MacPhail didn't sound like he was motivated to move Pie, who is expected to enter the season as the club's fourth outfielder.

"Pie, [Nolan] Reimold and [Adam] Jones haven't played full seasons healthy yet," MacPhail said. "That's nobody's fault, but I'm figuring I need as many guys as I can to get through the year. I'm not a believer that if you have three guys for three positions, you're all set. We know that you need to have four or five for three positions and maybe you're set. I don't look at that as a logjam at all."

The Orioles' stable of young pitchers, including Zach Britton and David Hernandez, was also asked about frequently in trade talks.

* MacPhail had an informal meeting with Joe Urbon, the representative for free-agent pitcher Mark Hendrickson. The two sides have mutual interests, so it should be only a matter of time before a deal is struck.

NOTES: : The Orioles haven't had recent trade talks with the Florida Marlins about infielder Dan Uggla. ... MacPhail said there is a good chance that the club will make some offers during the week to free agents. ... To nobody's surprise, MacPhail said essentially that the Orioles will not be involved in the sweepstakes for free-agent pitcher John Lackey. ... Hank Blalock, Carlos Delgado and Nick Johnson remain on the Orioles' list for their vacancy at first base. Pedro Feliz is their top target at third base. ... While the trades of Detroit Tigers pitcher Edwin Jackson and Marlins reliever Matt Lindstrom are reportedly imminent, the Orioles are not involved in talks for either player. ... MacPhail said the team hasn't ruled out signing another catcher but conceded that it isn't a priority. ... The Orioles will meet with the agents of Cuban pitcher Aroldis Chapman during the meetings.... Luke Scott is not being considered to fill the team's first-base vacancy for the 2010 season.

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