Price isn't right: Orioles withdraw from bidding for Cuban pitchers


The Orioles have withdrawn from the bidding for two pitchers who defected from the Cuban National Team.

General manager Pat Gillick confirmed yesterday that the club had pulled out of negotiations with the agent for pitchers Livan Hernandez and Osvaldo Fernandez because the price had become too high.

"It was just getting out of hand," said Gillick, "so we got out of it late last [Thursday] night."

The negotiations are taking place in the Dominican Republic, where the two pitchers are playing winter ball. Scouting director Gary Nickels and assistant general manager Kevin Malone were there representing the Orioles, who had been characterized by agent Joe Cubas as among the top bidders before they backed off.

Most of the interest has centered on the 20-year-old Hernandez, who is such a promising prospect that the price now has topped $3 million. The Orioles reportedly were willing to pay more than $2 million to acquire him, but were not willing to get into a price range that would buy them a proven major-league starter in the free-agent market.

Fernandez, whose age has been reported as 27, 29 and 30, is in far less demand, but Cubas may insist that a club sign the two as a package.

At least four teams were still in the bidding yesterday, including the Florida Marlins, Atlanta Braves, Toronto Blue Jays and the New York Yankees. The Marlins always have been considered the favorite to sign both because of drawing power they would have with the large Cuban population in South Florida and because they may feel more comfortable in a more familiar environment.

Gillick leaves this weekend for California, where he will take part in the general managers' meetings next week in Los Angeles. He said, however, that he does not expect any serious trading activity involving the Orioles, who ended their off-season shopping spree on Thursday when they signed outfielder Mike Devereaux to a one-year contract.

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