Hammonds' trip to DL may hasten trade for Bonilla


ARLINGTON, Texas -- Orioles right fielder Jeffrey Hammonds was placed on the 15-day disabled list yesterday, less than 24 hours after catcher Chris Hoiles was disabled.

The injuries to two members of the Orioles' everyday lineup, according to two club sources, may fuel the Orioles' pursuit of New York Mets slugger Bobby Bonilla, which continues to intensify.

To replace Hammonds on the roster, the Orioles called up outfielder Mark Smith from Triple-A Rochester.

Hammonds returned to Baltimore yesterday to be examined by team doctor Michael Jacobs, who diagnosed his injury as a strained trapezius -- the muscle that runs from the neck to the shoulder.

The injury has been bothering him for several weeks, and worsened over the weekend, affecting Hammonds' ability to throw. There was some concern, before Jacobs' examination yesterday, that Hammonds might have some sort of shoulder ailment. Orioles manager Phil Regan said he's not sure how long Hammonds will be out of action.

Hammonds, hitting .240 with four homers and 23 RBIs, has had injury problems since being drafted by the Orioles in June of '92. In his first season, he went on the disabled list twice with a herniated disk in his neck. In 1994, he suffered a concussion after a collision at home plate with Seattle catcher Bill Haselman. Then he strained his knee and was placed on the disabled list May 10, and after the season, had reconstructive surgery on his right knee.

The Mets have asked several times about Hammonds' availability in past and current trade talks, but his history of injuries may prevent him from being involved in any deal for Bonilla. According to one source, New York is indicating to others interested in Bonilla -- not the Orioles -- that it is getting closer to completing a deal involving the slugger.

The Mets and Orioles have not settled on any specifics of the players involved, discussing several different combinations, including infielder Jeff Kent.

The Mets, loaded with a strong stable of young starting pitchers, are lacking a young closer and may have interest in hard-throwing Armando Benitez, regarded as one of the top pitching prospects in the game. They also have expressed an interest in right fielder Alex Ochoa, although the Orioles may be unwilling to part with two prospects.

In talking with other clubs about Bonilla, Mets general manager Joe McIlvaine has asked for one excellent prospect to anchor the deal, with one or two average prospects. For instance, McIlvaine asked the San Diego Padres for Derrek Lee, a 19-year-old slugger rated among the top power prospects in the game, and two decent minor-league pitchers. (The Mets and the Padres broke off talks last week.)

One source familiar with the negotiations guessed that on a scale of 1 to 10, the chances of Bonilla being traded to the Orioles are "a 7 -- maybe an 8." If the Orioles do get Bonilla, 32, he probably would play right field and bat cleanup, perhaps moving to third if Hammonds came back and Jeff Manto slumped.

Bonilla, who made the NL All-Star team, is a below-average defensive player at third or in the outfield. His '95 salary is $4.4 million, and he will make $4.5 million in '96.

Shepherd talks 'dragging'

The father of Orioles unsigned No. 1 pick Alvie Shepherd Jr., says that while he expects a deal to get done, he thinks the Orioles are "dragging their feet" in negotiations.

"We're not asking for a billion dollars," said Alvie Shepherd Sr. "We're just asking for what's fair for him. There's too much 'Wait and see.'

"I still think we're going to get it done, but if we're going to get something settled, they need to get closer to where it should be, and they know where it should be."

Based on the bonuses of those picked and signed around Shepherd, the college pitcher is probably looking for something in the $650,000 range. The Orioles have made an offer, which Shepherd Sr. said was relatively close to what his son wants.

"We're not very far apart," Shepherd Sr. said. "There's a middle ground where we can meet, and they know where it is. It's time to do some serious negotiating."

Shepherd Jr., a pitcher, has gone to Alaska to play summer ball until he signs. He could return to the University of Nebraska for his senior year and wait for next year's draft, but it's unlikely that will happen.

Around the horn

The Orioles had thought about pursuing Houston left fielder Phil Plantier, but the Padres are expected to conclude a deal for Plantier in the next 48 hours. . . . Smith was batting .289 with nine homers and 55 RBIs for the Triple-A Red Wings. He'll spell veteran Kevin Bass in right field occasionally, for the time being. . . . Pitcher Alan Mills, sidelined by an elbow problem, is working out of the Orioles' extended spring camp in Sarasota, Fla. . . . Mike Mussina wasn't sad to see Juan Gonzalez sit out the first eight innings with tightness in both legs. The Texas slugger has five career homers against Mussina, tying Frank Thomas for the most off him.

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