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In case you missed it, here's the original list of Orioles minor league players who were granted free agency:

Pitchers: Brian Bowles, Matt Bruback, Tim Kester, Julio Manon, Chris Piersoll, Luis Ramirez, Eddy Rodriguez, Tim Byrdak, Brian Forystek, Franklyn Gracesqui, Jason Pearson and Scott Rice.

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Catchers: Raul Chavez, Sandy Madera, Brandon Marsters and Franklin Tua.

Infielders: Leo Daigle, Mario Delgado, Andy Tracy, Brooks Badeaux, Bobby Scales, Napoleon Calzado, Tripper Johnson, Pete Maestrales, Ryner Bautista, Angel Chavez, Eddy Garabito and Pete Shier.

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Outfielders: Quincy Ascencion, Todd Donovan, Noah Hall and Keith Reed.

Wasn't Chavez the player-to-be-named later in the Jeff Conine trade?

I guess the choices were Chavez or a rosin bag.

Marsters made a solid impression on the coaching staff this spring with his ability to handle pitchers and skills behind the plate.

Reed, in case you haven't caught on by now, probably wasn't worth a first-round selection in the draft.

Just a hunch.

Gracesqui's 2006 season ended early in Triple-A Ottawa. He was pitching up north for a while, until is attitude went south. The Orioles had enough and shut him down.

Byrdak, by the way, signed a minor league deal with the Tigers. So did former spring training invitee Vic Darensbourg, who pitched in the Indians system this year.

Former Orioles starter/reliever Travis Driskill opted for free agency after spending another year in the Astros' system. People ask me about the nicest guys I've ever covered on the beat. He's way up high on the list.

Speaking still of former Orioles, and nice guys, Kurt Ainsworth was spotted on the Dodgers' minor league free agency list. He still wants to pitch, but his shoulder is leaning toward retirement.

It becomes more clear by the day that the Orioles view Hayden Penn more as trade bait than a candidate for the 2007 rotation. If he isn't gone by Opening Day, he'll likely pitch out of the bullpen, which is fine. But whenever you hear about the Orioles "packaging" young arms in a potential deal, Penn seems to have a bow tied around him - the latest example being the discussions with the Braves involving Tim Hudson.

A member of the organization recently told me that Penn "didn't show me a whole lot in September," but the guy hadn't given up on the young right-hander. Far from it.

Funny how the Orioles backed off trading for Hudson two winters ago because he wasn't going to sign a contract extension with them, but he still could end up pitching here.

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