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Dodgers, not O's, likely to catch A-Rod

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Superstar shortstop Alex Rodriguez has begun his last season with the Seattle Mariners.

He knows it.

Everybody knows it.

The only question is where he'll be next season and just how close he'll get to baseball's first $200 million contract.

Here's a tip.

He won't be in Baltimore, because the price will be somewhere in the neighborhood of $175 million over 10 seasons. Orioles owner Peter Angelos has been willing to lay out some big money to put a star-studded team on the field, but he's not going to be the one to push baseball's salary spiral that far into the stratosphere.

There's only one ownership entity with the will and the wherewithal to satisfy superagent Scott Boras' insatiable appetite for the next record contract, and that -- of course -- is Fox Sports -- the people who brought you Kevin Brown's record $105 million deal in 1998 and moved outfielder Shawn Green into second place on the annual salary list in November.

There have been whispers that the higher-ups at Fox have decided that they will not be outbid when Rodriguez enters the free-agent market this November. Whether that's true or not, the Los Angeles Dodgers seem like a prohibitive favorite to win the A-Rod derby.

It could be quite an auction, with Boras playing the Dodgers off almost every other big-market club. The Orioles will be involved early on, but the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets will be the teams that drive the price up. Even the Yankees figure to make a big play, though they would likely want to turn Rodriguez into a third baseman to play alongside his buddy Derek Jeter.

Though Rodriguez has long idolized Orioles legend Cal Ripken, there is little chance that sentiment will hold the price down enough to make the Orioles a serious candidate to sign him.

That's too bad, because Camden Yards would be the perfect place to establish himself as the greatest power-hitting shortstop of all time.

Rare trade

It's early, but the late-spring deal that sent marquee center fielder Jim Edmonds to the St. Louis Cardinals for pitcher Kent Bottenfield and promising infielder Adam Kennedy looks like one of those rare deals in which both clubs think they got the better end of the bargain.

Edmonds has made his presence felt in St. Louis, and both Bottenfield and Kennedy performed very well in the Angels' season-opening series against the world champion New York Yankees.

Bottenfield pitched well in his Angels debut, working a strong 5 2/3 innings in a no-decision Tuesday night. Kennedy, who was the odd man out when the Cardinals acquired second baseman Fernando Vina, has been nothing short of spectacular.

He had three hits against future Hall of Famer Roger Clemens on Tuesday and went 7-for-15 in the three-game series, and appears ready to settle in as the everyday second baseman.

Disappointing start

The Blue Jays were hoping that the 3-4 hitting combination of Raul Mondesi and Carlos Delgado would get out of the gate quickly and keep fans from fixating on the departure of popular outfielder Green.

No such luck.

Mondesi and Delgado were a combined 4-for-30 in the four-game series that the Jays split with the lowly Kansas City Royals. If this keeps up, Toronto could have real trouble making good on my wild-card prediction.

Boomer's ready

Former Orioles pitcher David Wells raised eyebrows again this spring, working just 12 innings during the exhibition season in preparation for his Opening Day start against the Royals.

It's always something -- he's either too fat or he's not getting enough work -- but Wells always seems to have the last laugh. He took a two-hit shutout into the seventh inning against the Royals and would have gotten the victory if not for a rare late-inning blowup by closer Billy Koch.

"There were a lot of disturbed people down there [in Florida]," Wells told reporters after the game. "You get criticized for only pitching 12 innings, but it's not how much you pitch, it's whether you can get the job done. I'm not trying to run the show here. I'm not making my own rules. I've just been around a long time, and I know what it takes for me to get ready. They [the Jays] have been very understanding."

Wells threw 82 pitches -- 57 of them strikes -- and did not walk a batter. Including exhibition appearances, he has pitched 20 innings this spring without issuing a base on balls.

"Obviously, I take pride in my control, and I've been blessed with good mechanics," he said. "I can be out a week and still go out and throw strikes."

What is really obvious is that spring training is overrated.

New Brew Crew

The Milwaukee Brewers aren't supposed to be a big player in the National League Central, but they followed up their opening day Opening Day tie against the Cincinnati Reds with back-to-back victories at Cinergy Field.

"We don't care that the odds are stacked against us," said new manager Davey Lopes. "Everything you read in the paper said, 'The Brewers don't have this or that; don't expect much of them.' That's all well and good, but those people aren't playing the game."

The potential of the Brewers' pitching staff remains a major question mark, but Lopes thinks that the club will score enough runs to keep some of their well-heeled opponents on their toes.

"We can bang the baseball," Lopes said. "We've been banging it ever since spring training started, and we're going to continue to bang it for the duration of the season. I guarantee you, people are going to take notice of us sooner or later."

Palmeiro older, wiser

Former Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro isn't happy about platooning at first base with fellow former Orioles first baseman David Segui, but he has kept his displeasure to himself.

By his own account, that is quite in contrast to the reaction that might have come from a younger, less team-oriented Palmeiro.

"If it was five years ago, the newspapers and the talk shows would have been very busy," Palmeiro said the other day. "But now, being disruptive is something I personally want no part of. What I've learned over the years is that when things happen you might not agree with, you have to always keep the bigger picture in mind.

"This team really has a good thing going. It's a great mix of players, not only in talent but also chemistry. We have a chance to have a very good season. The quickest way to disrupt that is to allow egos to enter the mix. I'm going to be one who will always attempt to prevent that, so I'm sure not going to let it start with me."

Palmeiro owns three Gold Gloves at first base, but Segui has better range. So, Oates wants to get Segui in there at least half the time. Also, Palmeiro proved last year that he can be just as productive at designated hitter.

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