McGwire's trade puts smiles on O's faces Coppinger to get start tonight for Rochester; Johnson juggles OFs

THE BALTIMORE SUN

OAKLAND, Calif. -- For the second time in a week, the Orioles were the unintended benefactor of a major trade, arriving in the ++ Bay Area just in time to watch first baseman Mark McGwire walk out of Oakland Coliseum with a suitcase.

They got a similar break on Tuesday night, when the Texas Rangers traded pitcher Ken Hill before a start against the Orioles at Camden Yards. This time, however, the Orioles will have four games to take advantage of the decimated Athletics' lineup.

"We were going to pitch around McGwire anyway," manager Davey Johnson said with a laugh.

Johnson said last week that he would like to see the July 31 trading deadline moved back to reduce the competitive inequities that are sometimes created when an impact player is moved from a non-contending team to a contender. The Orioles do not appear to be disadvantaged by any of the major deals that took place yesterday, but there are some clear winners.

"I think the club that got a break was the Angels," Johnson said. "They get to face the White Sox without their best starting pitcher and their closer."

True enough, the Angels' wild-card prospects may have improved significantly when the White Sox decided to dismantle the club and begin building toward the future. The Angels, who are a half-game behind Seattle in the AL West lead and 2 1/2 games behind the Yankees in the wild-card race, play the White Sox five more times in their next 11 games after losing to Chicago, 14-12, last night.

Still, the Orioles couldn't be unhappy to see McGwire's name conspicuous by its absence from the A's batting order.

"I think it has a general effect," Cal Ripken said. "When you remove a player of that caliber from the lineup, it's not going to be the same lineup."

Ripken, for one, won't have to stand in the line of McGwire's fire at third base anymore, but he said that never crossed his mind when he heard that the deal had been finalized.

"I'm sure it would mean a whole lot more if you're pitching against him," Ripken said. "He isn't a guy who hits a lot of ground balls."

Coppinger to Red Wings

Right-hander Rocky Coppinger will make his next start as a member of the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings tonight, but it remains unclear whether he was optioned when his 30-day injury rehabilitation assignment expired yesterday.

General manager Pat Gillick apparently was trying to get a 15-day extension of the rehab assignment.

Coppinger has been out since early this season with a sore shoulder. He has worked his way back into pitching shape, but the club is not satisfied that he is ready to return to the major-league rotation -- and there isn't a spot open for him at the moment.

Outfield peace

Johnson had separate conversations with Harold Baines, Jeffrey Hammonds and Geronimo Berroa to clarify how each will be used down the stretch. The acquisition of Baines may cost the outfielders some at-bats, but everyone seemed to be on the same page.

"I talked a little bit to Hammonds, told him that I'm going to be mixing and matching a lot like I've been doing," Johnson said. "I talked to Baines and he said he'd do whatever he could to help us win."

Johnson also spoke with Berroa, who had said on Tuesday that he expects to be in the batting order every day, and explained the situation to him.

Hammonds has been playing almost full-time but said he was satisfied with the situation.

"Whatever is best for the club," he said. "I'm just going to play. That's what I've been doing. I'm not going to stop and start thinking about things now."

Hammonds returns

Hammonds was back in the starting lineup last night after missing two starts with a sore Achilles' tendon. He pinch hit on Tuesday night and got the day off on Wednesday to rest the injury.

"It's been going on for a month and a half," Hammonds said. "It's not something that's going to keep me from playing, so I'm not going to worry about it."

Rodriguez review

The news that Ivan Rodriguez had re-signed with the Texas Rangers was well-received in the Orioles' clubhouse, and why not? It meant that he would not be going to the rival Yankees, though Johnson said that was not the reason he was in favor of the deal.

"I think it's good for baseball," he said. "I like to see guys stay where they came up. And I think he initiated [the compromise], and I like that, too."

The year in review

Before last night, the Orioles have the best record in baseball over their previous 162 regular-season games, going 102-60. The defending National League champion Atlanta Braves were second at 99-63.

Pub Date: 8/01/97

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