Looking to the future, O's closing in on 2 prospects Aussie Stephens OKs deal; draft pick Minor next


TORONTO -- The Orioles didn't have a No. 1 draft pick this year, but they're investing first-round money in other ways. They've agreed to terms with 16-year-old Australian pitcher John Stephens for a signing bonus of $500,000, and assuming he passes a physical today, he is expected to be introduced at a news conference at Camden Yards tomorrow.

They are also close to signing 33rd-round pick Ryan Minor, who was selected in the second round of the NBA draft, and should the Orioles complete the deal, Minor will start playing in the Orioles' farm system this year.

Minor, who played basketball and baseball in his junior year at the University of Oklahoma and only baseball in his senior year, was picked in the seventh round by the New York Mets in 1995. But he told the Mets he expected to be a lottery pick in the NBA draft this spring.

When the Orioles drafted him last month, they projected him to be picked in the middle to lower part of the first round of the NBA draft. However, Minor fell to the Philadelphia 76ers in the third pick of the second round.

He is to report to the 76ers minicamp next week, but his low draft standing has apparently fueled his interest in baseball. The Orioles thought he wouldn't play until next year, if ever; now there's a good chance he'll play for a few weeks or a month this year, before reporting to the 76ers' regular training camp. If he agrees to terms shortly, Minor also will stop by Camden Yards during this week's series with the Red Sox and work out with the Orioles, before going to Philadelphia.

The Orioles drafted Minor as a first baseman, but because he's such a good athlete, they're going to try the 6-foot-7, 230-pound player at third base. The Mets liked Minor's potential as a pitcher.

Stephens, who turns 17 shortly, is in Baltimore. Because of his age, he cannot play in the minors this year. But he is expected to attend the Orioles' minicamp in Sarasota, Fla., in the fall.

Ripken shapes up

An American League scout who saw the Orioles early in the season said Monday that he's amazed by the transformation of shortstop Cal Ripken's body and swing since April. "He looks like he's in a lot better shape than he was," the scout said. "He must be busting his tail -- his body looks completely different. And he's got much more bat speed than he did."

Ripken shrugged off the before-and-after comparison. "I'm continuing to work out . . . and maintain my physical shape as I get older. I haven't been drastically different [in conditioning] my whole career."

Ripken said his conditioning and his bat speed aren't related. His bat speed, Ripken said, is bad when he gets out in front and jumps at the ball.

Gaston-Mussina revisited

Toronto manager Cito Gaston was asked if he recommended his old friend Mike Mussina for the All-Star team.

Mussina, you may recall, warmed up in the bullpen in the ninth inning of the 1993 All-Star Game in Baltimore, without Gaston's permission.

When Gaston didn't call on Mussina to finish the game, the wrath of Camden Yards fell upon Gaston.

Gaston replied, "Yeah. Just because he's a [jerk] doesn't mean I have to be."

Mussina: I didn't deserve it

Mussina on the All-Star picks: "I don't feel I deserved to make the team, because my first half of the season wasn't as good as I expected. . . . I feel for the guys like [Montreal's] Henry Rodriguez and Rafael [Palmeiro]. They deserve to be there."

Mussina said he didn't expect to make the team after All-Star Andy Pettitte beat him in New York on Saturday.

Around the horn

Rocky Coppinger is scheduled to start against his hero, Boston's Roger Clemens, on Saturday, and he's pumped. "Two Texas boys going at it," Coppinger said. Coppinger is from El Paso, and Clemens, who attended the University of Texas, lives in the Houston area. . . . When Brady Anderson was picked off second on Monday, Palmeiro was at the plate -- just the most recent example of how Palmeiro's RBI opportunities have been hurt by bad base running. Palmeiro was at the plate when Luis Polonia was picked off second dusting off his pants against Kansas City, and he was at the plate last week when Roberto Alomar was thrown out trying to steal third.

Pub Date: 7/03/96

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