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O's trade focus turns to Cardinals' Gant Streaky-hitting outfielder had 30 homers last year, but has slipped to .216

TORONTO — TORONTO -- The Orioles' ongoing search for offensive help has settled for the moment on out-of-favor St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Ron Gant, according to team sources.

Gant, 32, batted a career-low .246 with 30 home runs, 82 RBIs and 13 stolen bases last season. This year he has fallen to .216, with 11 home runs and 33 RBIs in 227 at-bats.

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Gant is regarded as one of the game's most streaky hitters with strong pull-hitting tendencies. Gant has struck out at least 100 times in four of his last five seasons played but was also a #F two-time 30-30 player with Atlanta.

General manager Pat Gillick and assistant Kevin Malone have downplayed the urgency of their mission, but manager Davey Johnson has been less subtle. Johnson remains severely hamstrung by a lack of depth. While a move is explored, the club continues to carry little-used outfielder Dave Dellucci. He has made only two starts since his promotion from Double-A Bowie on June 1 and has only 12 at-bats, including seven strikeouts. The team is now considering returning Dellucci to Bowie.

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Dellucci originally was promoted because player development personnel thought he possessed the quickest bat at their top two farm teams.

"It's very, very hard for someone to come up from Double-A and sit. He should be playing [at Bowie]," said Johnson.

While the search continues for outside help, temporary alternatives may be considered from within. Outfielder Danny Clyburn is a possibility, though it is uncertain how much more substantial his role would be than Dellucci's.

Meanwhile, Johnson appears to be moving away from Pete Incaviglia as designated hitter. Without an extra-base hit since May 4 and only 2-for-29 in 11 games since May 28, Incaviglia no longer receives consistent at-bats. There exists clubhouse support for Incaviglia, a popular figure who has struggled recently with finding his strike zone, but that is unlikely to sway management.

Along with Gant, Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Darren Daulton and San Diego Padres left fielder Greg Vaughn remain possibilities.

Hoiles looks toward return

Catcher Chris Hoiles has been reduced to a frustrated spectator by a slight tear in his right medial collateral ligament but he hasn't given up on returning shortly after the All-Star break. Hoiles, injured in a home-plate crash with F. P. Santangelo against the Montreal Expos Monday, is wearing an elaborate fiberglass brace that allows him to walk without discomfort and even soft toss before games.

Johnson would like nothing more than for Hoiles to return quickly, but he remains cautions about risking additional injury.

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"He's made a lot of strides," Johnson said. "I don't know. We're talking about a tear in his knee. We don't want to take a chance on something like that."

The Next Unit?

Johnson was impressed enough with yesterday's bullpen session by draftee Shawn Jones that he compared the Canadian's potential to that of Seattle left-hander Randy Johnson. Along with Gillick and Malone, Johnson watched the Hamilton, Ontario, resident work for about five minutes.

"He might be the best draft pick I've ever seen," said Johnson. "He's long, loose, throws in the 90s. He's got a high ceiling and that's exciting to see."

High ceiling, indeed. A 14th-round pick, Jones is a volleyball player who had pitched little before the Orioles drafted him.

Rocket on Beeston

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The Blue Jays organization remains numb over last week's announcement by president Paul Beeston that he is leaving the organization, presumably to become baseball's No. 2 man behind Bud Selig. Beeston was one of the primary reasons for Clemens leaving the Boston Red Sox as a free agent to join the Jays.

"He's obviously a very valuable part of this organization," said Clemens. "At the same time, it would be great for the game if he ended up working in the commissioner's office."

Around the horn

While the Orioles avoided their first three-game losing streak this season, the Blue Jays were denied their first peek at .500 since June 1. They have been a game below .500 five times since and lost the next one in each case. Clemens failed to gain his 12th win for the third consecutive start. He has received two runs of support in those three starts. Two Orioles extended hitting streaks. Brady Anderson pushed his run to nine games with three hits. Roberto Alomar barely pushed his streak to eight RTC games with a ninth-inning single. Jeffrey Hammonds reversed a negative trend with a pair of singles and two stolen bases. Hammonds, who started in center field while Anderson (tender knee) served as designated hitter, entered the game in a 3-for-31 dive.

Bust vs. best?

Carlos Perez, Pat Hentgen and Roger Clemens held the Orioles scoreless for 25 innings, but the Orioles also have won their share of games when facing top-notch starters this season:

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Date, Opp., Pitcher, IP, H, ER

4/2, KC, Appier*, 5, 6, 2

5/8, Sea, Johnson, 6, 6, 5

5/18, Sea, Johnson*, 5, 2, 4

5/26, NY, Pettitte, 6, 8, 7

5/30, Cle, Nagy, 7, 8, 1

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6/3, NY, Cone*, 6 1/3 , 6, 3

6/4, NY, Pettitte*, 6, 6, 5

6/13, Atl, Maddux, 7, 7, 4

6/14, Atl, Smoltz*, 7, 7, 3

*-Was not the losing pitcher

Pub Date: 6/22/97


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