CLEVELAND -- The Orioles are trying to put together a deal to acquire a No. 4 starter in the very near future, club sources said yesterday.
In a related move, Orioles general manager Roland Hemond yesterday called at least two of the seven teams that had expressed a desire to acquire left-hander Brad Pennington, thanked them for their interest and indicated the Orioles were working on something bigger.
The Orioles hope to include Pennington in whatever package they put together for the No. 4 starter, with outfielder Damon Buford or left-hander Arthur Rhodes other likely principals.
Right now, the Orioles have three solid starters in Kevin Brown, Mike Mussina and Ben McDonald, but they've had trouble filling the other two spots in the rotation. Rhodes, who began the season at No. 5, couldn't throw strikes and was sent to Triple-A Rochester to get his mechanics straightened out.
Left-hander Sid Fernandez has pitched poorly since signing a three-year, $9 million deal before last season, and he's back on the disabled list. Some Orioles officials seem resigned to the fact that Fernandez will never be as effective as they had hoped, although the Orioles aren't quite to the point where they're ready to release him and pay off the $5 million balance of his contract.
Left-hander Jamie Moyer is a stopgap, as is rookie Scott Klingenbeck, who beat California last Friday. Club sources say the Orioles want to get one more established starter, and there is some urgency to this: Pennington, designated for assignment last Thursday, must be traded by Sunday, or else he must be passed through waivers.
Among the pitchers the Orioles are talking about:
* New York Mets right-hander Bret Saberhagen. When he's throwing right, he's as good as there is.
* Minnesota's Kevin Tapani. A right-hander with good stuff who the last-place Twins would unload for the right price. Orioles scout Gordon Goldsberry was at the Metrodome last week, watching Tapani and Scott Erickson pitch.
* Detroit left-hander David Wells, who held the New York Yankees hitless for 5 2/3 innings in a win last night.
* Houston right-hander Doug Drabek, a veteran with postseason experience. The Orioles asked about Drabek's availability over the weekend, but were told he's not on the market. The Orioles are one of 10 teams that Drabek's contract will allow him to be traded to.
* Milwaukee right-hander Ricky Bones. Maybe Orioles manager Phil Regan could help him with his scuffball.