O's sweeten Bonilla pot with Benitez


KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- In an effort to spur stalled trade talks with the New York Mets regarding third baseman Bobby Bonilla, the Orioles have indicated a willingness to deal reliever Armando Benitez.

No official offer involving Benitez has been made, according to a source familiar with the negotiations, but the Orioles are now waiting to hear from Mets general manager Joe McIlvaine to see if a deal can be reached.

The Orioles want Bonilla to bolster their sagging attack, and the Mets want to cut payroll -- Bonilla will earn $4.5 million next year. But there's been a stalemate in recent days: The Mets have insisted that Orioles outfield prospect Alex Ochoa be included in the deal, and the Orioles have been saying no.

The hard-throwing Benitez is regarded as one of the top pitching prospects in the game and his inclusion could, theoretically, enable the two sides to make a trade. But some in the Mets organization are known to be down on Benitez, questioning whether he'll be able to make the adjustments needed to be successful in the big leagues.

Benitez is a fit for the Mets in this regard -- beyond aging closer John Franco, they are thin in relief prospects.

The rumor mill was turning last night, after the Mets removed Bonilla in the seventh inning of their 8-5 loss to Colorado. That move led to rampant speculation that a deal with the Orioles had been completed, but according to sources on both sides, there was no progress made yesterday.

Gomez, Barberie get 'few days'

His team thirsting for offense, Orioles manager Phil Regan said yesterday that third baseman Leo Gomez and second baseman Bret Barberie are getting a chance to play "for the next few days."

That's precisely what Regan said about third baseman Jeff Manto and second baseman Manny Alexander when they unseated Gomez and Barberie, respectively, during the past two months.

Gomez started for the fourth straight game last night, and Barberie for the third straight game. Gomez went 2-for-3 with a walk and has six hits in his last 10 at-bats, compared to Manto's 2-for-15 since coming off the disabled list. Barberie has one hit in 10 at-bats, but that one hit was a grand slam, and he was superb defensively last night. Alexander has three hits in his last 22 at-bats, and since July 3, his average has dropped from .291 to .264.

?3 "I'm not unhappy with this lineup," Regan said.

Injury update

* Right fielder Jeffrey Hammonds will undergo further tests this week on the strained muscle that runs from his neck to his shoulder, and some nerves in that area. Orioles general manager Roland Hemond acknowledged that there will be some testing on Hammonds' shoulder.

* Catcher Chris Hoiles, on the disabled list with a strained hamstring, is expected to begin taking batting practice when the team returns to Camden Yards.

* Pitcher Ben McDonald, suffering from tendinitis, will throw at Camden Yards today, and at that time, the Orioles likely will make a decision on whether to place the right-hander on the disabled list.

Adjustments for Goodwin

Rookie center fielder Curtis Goodwin has three hits in his last 28 at-bats, including 0-for-4 last night. One reason may be that Goodwin has been altering his stance. Goodwin began standing more erect at the plate, holding his hands a little higher and trying to drive the ball.

On Saturday, however, Goodwin went back to his old stance, lTC dropping down low and lowering his hands, but is 0-for-7 since. "Other teams are learning more about him the more they see him," Regan said, "and they're pitching him differently.

He's got to start adjusting."

Goodwin has attempted fewer bunts since the All-Star break, and Regan would like him to bunt "once a game" as a general rule.

Goodwin said: "I haven't had the chances to bunt. I can't bunt with the situations I've been in, coming up with runners on base. It's almost like I'm an RBI guy lately."

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