While continuing to discuss shortstop Mike Bordick as a trade possibility, the Orioles have also offered the All-Star infielder a two-year contract extension with a club option for 2003, according to warehouse and industry sources.
Vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift added last night that he doesn't expect Bordick to be traded before Monday's waiver deadline even though one scenario suggests Bordick would be traded as a "rent-a-player" then re-signed as a free agent after the season. The New York Mets are believed the team most interested in Bordick, in the option year of a contract paying him $3 million this year.
Majority owner Peter Angelos and Bordick's agent, Joe Bick, have swapped faxed proposals the past two weeks, sources said.
While the sides apparently remain far apart, the recent activity suggests the club is serious about its oft-discussed desire to retain Bordick for the next two years.
At what price remains the pivotal issue.
Bordick's value as a free agent has soared recently, in part due to the three-year, $27 million contract extension awarded Barry Larkin by Cincinnati this week. Almost half of Larkin's contract is composed of deferred money, a staple of Angelos deals as well.
Another possible sticking point is Angelos' desire for a club option. Bordick, 35, would prefer a vesting option like the one given B. J. Surhoff less than two years ago.
Bordick might command $6 million to $7 million should he pursue free agency. The Orioles have so far offered to guarantee between $8 million and $9 million over two years, according to a club source.
Mercedes back to bullpen
Jose Mercedes walked into the clubhouse yesterday as the Orioles' only starter with a winning record and fresh off his second consecutive victory. He left manager Mike Hargrove's office shortly before the game as the newest member of the bullpen.
Mercedes (5-4) is being removed from the rotation following John Parrish's smashing debut on Monday, when he allowed three earned runs in seven innings and struck out nine in a 4-3 loss to the New York Yankees. With the club being off tomorrow, Mike Mussina will pitch Friday on normal rest to open a three-game series against Cleveland, followed by Pat Rapp Saturday and Parrish on Sunday.
Mercedes opened the season as the club's fifth starter before going to the bullpen. He rejoined the rotation when Jason Johnson was sent down to Triple-A Rochester and won his last two starts despite stiffness in his left side.
"Of the people we talked about to move out of the rotation, we felt Mercedes could handle it better than the others," Hargrove said. "The fact he pitched out of the bullpen previously this year and had done really well had something to do with that. And we also felt like he could make the transition mentally. ...
"It was really tough to do, but he took it very well. He understood. He wasn't real happy about it and I don't blame him, but he said he'd do his best. That's all you can ask. He's a good man."
Rumors surprise Surhoff
Surhoff voiced surprise over resurrected talks that could send him to the Yankees for a package of prospects including highly rated pitcher David Walling, their first-round draft choice last year.
"This is the first I've heard about it," Surhoff said after being ambushed at his locker by a mix of New York and local media.
The Yankees restated their interest in Surhoff earlier this week and are willing to discuss a combination of prospects to further galvanize a clubhouse strengthened this month by the additions of pitcher Denny Neagle and outfielders David Justice and Glenallen Hill. While no deal is believed imminent, Monday's waiver deadline lends greater urgency to these discussions than those involving Ricky Ledee for Surhoff last month.
While usually answering questions with questions, Thrift likened the Yankees' latest offer for Surhoff to "Limburger cheese" and said a deal was so distant "I can't even smell it."
Thrift insists he's not engaging in gamesmanship by shopping one team's acceptable offer elsewhere. Right now, Thrift says, he hasn't heard anything that's acceptable. "Once you find what's the best fit for you, I have to do that," he said.
The Orioles backed away from a deal involving Ledee because they thought the fourth outfielder and a prospect insufficient return for the team's incumbent MVP.
Ledee instead became the centerpiece for a deal that brought Justice to the Yankees. Yankees left fielder Shane Spencer was subsequently injured, causing the Yankees to acquire Hill.
Surhoff said he thought the possibility of him being dealt to the Yankees "would have been dead" after the acquisition of Justice and Hill. "To me, there's no sense even talking or speculating unless something were to happen. And I don't plan on it happening. ... I'll probably say this for the last time -- the umpteenth-thousandth time -- this is where I'd like to play. And if that changes somehow, I would then have to deal with it. But I hope I don't have to."
Since Angelos declared earlier this month there would be no "fire sale" involving his team's veterans, the Orioles have discovered a market unwilling to part with major-league-ready talent. The Orioles refused to deal pitcher Scott Erickson before he gained veto power over any deal July 6 because they were unable to leverage a pitcher ready to be fill Erickson's spot in the rotation. Erickson's value has eroded markedly since.
"We don't have to do anything," said Thrift. "It's not a fire sale."
Parrish celebrates, sort of
Parrish said about 100 friends and family members attended Monday's game. A mob was waiting for him outside the ballpark. "The first person I looked for was my mom. That was the first time I had seen her since I got here," he said.
His idea of celebrating was staying up talking with friends at his hotel rather than hitting the streets. "I was a little tired mentally and was physically drained. I got some good sleep," he said. "I wanted to come in today and work out. I'm just glad to have that day over with."
Harold Baines made sure Parrish would have a keepsake from his big night by retrieving one of the balls he used during the game.
Ripken postpones drill
Third baseman Cal Ripken's return to on-field activities was delayed by at least one day yesterday after he participated in an early afternoon clinic at Camden Yards. Ripken had planned to take ground balls during batting practice but instead put himself through a less rigorous test while demonstrating double-play technique before a group of youngsters. Ripken threw and made a series of lateral moves but decided against further stressing his lower back several hours later.
"I want to wait until [today] to see how everything feels," said Ripken, on the disabled list since June 28 due to nerve inflammation in his lower back.
Around the horn
The Orioles' double steal in the second inning was the first stolen base off Andy Pettitte since April 7.