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With the full-scale kickoff of Ravens training camp a few days away, the Orioles over the weekend kept hacking and erring their way into irrelevancy. The soon-to-be-forgotten Birds dropped three of four against the Twins to finish off a dreadful 2-8 homestand.

You know your squad has been relegated to the back burner when the news of which Raven reported first to camp is a hotter topic than your ongoing search for a new manager. (It was rookie Arthur Jones, by the way, but you already knew that.)

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You might not care anymore (and no one would fault you for it), but that doesn't mean the last-place Orioles have nothing left to play for — especially older players who are trying to pull a Kurt Russell before Saturday's trade deadline and escape from Baltimore.

Two weeks ago, it appeared that the trade market had dried up for the Orioles. Kevin Millwood was sent to the disabled list. Ty Wigginton's production plummeted. The same went for Miguel Tejada. It didn't look like anyone would be interested in whatever the Orioles were selling.

But a few of their veterans have picked it up a notch since — even if their contributions haven't showed up in the standings — and could soon be on their way out of town.

Coincidence? You tell me.

I mean, didn't you think it was weird that Luke Scott started wearing an eye patch to the ballpark and insisting that everyone call him "Snake"?

OK, I made that up, and all of this is pure speculation, of course. Good luck getting a player to admit he's pulling for a deadline deal. You know, because it would be a little awkward if he didn't get his way.

But whatever the reason for the improved play, Scott and a handful of his teammates are reportedly drawing interest from contenders. The Orioles aren't going to haul in blue-chip prospects for their services, but dealing away a few short-term assets can help restock the farm system.

Scott {photo by AP} has made the most of his pre-deadline audition. Entering Monday night's game, the AL Player of the Week had cranked four home runs and knocked in eight runs since returning from the DL a week ago.

A notoriously streaky hitter, Scott is capable of slugging a team to the playoffs all by himself if someone is willing to roll the dice on him.

Jeremy Guthrie, who has allowed three runs in his past two starts after ratcheting up the heat on his fastball, is an attractive option for teams needing a middle-of-the-line starter. But Guthrie will be tough to pry away because he takes some of the pressure off the Orioles' young rotation — and the last thing those kids need is more pressure.

Contenders looking for bullpen help may try to trade for Koji Uehara, his tender hamstrings and a Japanese interpreter to be named later. Or maybe they will call about Will Ohman (the lefty reliever hasn't allowed an earned run in 16 appearances).

And then there's Millwood, Wiggy and Miggy — valuable vets who are Mel Gibson-cold now, but could end up sparking a team during a playoff race.

Look at how hot and bothered Wigginton got arguing that botched call last Thursday. Imagine if it had mattered.

That stuff is contagious — except on the Orioles.

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Sure, no one wants to see a deadline-day flea market, but most of these guys have no long-term future here.

Trust me, it will be an afterthought soon enough when you escape Baltimore for those two-a-days in Westminster.

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