O's set Buhner physical


SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Orioles officials continued to have preliminary talks with other clubs at the general managers meetings, but hotter developments are taking place on the free-agent front.

The Orioles have scheduled a physical for Seattle Mariners free-agent outfielder Jay Buhner, who will be in Baltimore next week, general manager Roland Hemond confirmed yesterday.

The Orioles probably will not attempt to re-sign free agent Mike Devereaux, and Jeffrey Hammonds' surgically reconstructed knee likely will not be recovered in time for Opening Day, leaving Brady Anderson as the lone returning starting outfielder the Orioles can count on.

Buhner, a power hitter suited for Camden Yards, would play right field for Baltimore. He hit .279 for Seattle last season, with 21 home runs, 68 RBIs and a .394 on-base average. He is a .256 lifetime hitter with 129 career homers.

He made his major-league debut with the Yankees in 1987 and played 32 games with New York during parts of two seasons. Between 1991 and 1993, Buhner averaged 26.3 home runs and 84.7 RBIs.

On Aug. 18, 1992, he homered off Ben McDonald to become the first right-handed hitter to hit a ball over the right-field wall at Camden Yards.

Are the Orioles close to signing him?

"Those things are never close until you get them done," Hemond said.

Elsewhere in the world of trades and potential trades, new Texas Rangers general manager Doug Melvin showed yesterday that he has something in common with his 27 peers. He, too, wants to improve his pitching staff.

What Melvin has that most of the other clubs don't is the ability and willingness to dangle one of the game's most dangerous hitters as bait. Melvin has not made designated hitter Jose Canseco an untouchable.

"He's been mentioned," Melvin said. "Clubs have asked about him."

The Orioles, Melvin said, have not asked about Canseco. But the Red Sox, searching for a powerful right-handed bat to take advantage of Fenway Park's inviting left-field porch, have talked to the general manager about Canseco.

"I think we would have to have pitching back," Melvin said.

At the moment, the Red Sox have no spare pitching.

Canseco's is the biggest name among position players making the trade talk circuit, and Mariners left-hander Randy Johnson's is the biggest among pitchers.

The Red Sox talked last week with the Mariners about Johnson, and the Toronto Blue Jays expressed interest yesterday in the strong-armed left-hander.

The Orioles have talked to the Houston Astros about outfielder Luis Gonzalez. They also spoke with the Montreal Expos, exchanging ideas on each others' needs.

"It's hard to get too far with anything without knowing what the rules are," Hemond said.

SG The Expos, seeking to trim their payroll, have let it be known that

closer John Wetteland can be had for the right package. In the event the Expos trade Wetteland, they could make Mel Rojas their closer.

The Orioles, not ready to turn their closing duties over to rookie Armando Benitez, will be in the market for a closer should free agent Lee Smith leave the organization.

Orioles manager Phil Regan, then scouting for the Los Angeles Dodgers and a longtime believer in Wetteland, declined to give his stamp of approval when the Dodgers traded Wetteland to the Cincinnati Reds, who subsequently traded him to Montreal, where he became one of the game's top closers.

Regan and front office officials Hemond, Frank Robinson and Syd Thrift were in attendance at last night's Scottsdale Scorpions game to watch the Orioles' prospects participate in ,, the Arizona Fall League.

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