The Orioles are discussing a multi-year contract with arbitration-eligible pitcher Kent Mercker, the left-hander acquired from the Atlanta Braves in a December trade.
General manager Pat Gillick said last night that the Orioles want to lock up Mercker with a two-year deal, and a club option for a third year. The package likely is similar to the two-year, $6 million deal signed by right-hander Scott Erickson two weeks ago.
On other Orioles fronts:
* Gillick expressed mild interest in Lenny Webster, Philadelphia's backup catcher, available because of the Phillies' signing of free agent Benito Santiago on Tuesday.
Gillick said yesterday that his desire to add a catcher isn't because of dissatisfaction with Greg Zaun.
"What if Chris Hoiles or Zaun gets hurt?" Gillick said. "The question is, who is going to be our other catcher then? That's why we need another guy."
* As of today, the Orioles' first pick in the June amateur draft would be 51st overall. The Orioles forfeited their first-round pick when they signed Roberto Alomar. The team's standing in the draft may change slightly, depending whether other compensation picks are awarded to other teams.