NEW YORK -- The sudden availability of former Tampa Bay Devil Rays third baseman Vinny Castilla elicted a familiar response yesterday from vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift:
No way, Jose.
Castilla was waived by the Devil Rays on Thursday, making him available to any club willing to pay him a pro-rated share of the major-league $200,000 minimum. Thrift, however, repeated much the same response to questions earlier this season about free agent Jose Canseco.
"He's going one way and we're going another," said Thrift, who conceded he is searching for a powerful addition to a lineup that is last in the league in hitting and 13th in runs scored. "It's like a road map, and you're going one way and somebody else is going in another."
Castilla batted only .219 with eight home runs and 51 RBIs in 100 games after the Devil Rays acquired him from Colorado in December 1999. Obtained from the Atlanta Braves in the 1993 expansion draft, the former shortstop averaged 38 home runs for the Rockies from 1995-98. He is still owed $7.25 million by the Devil Rays but becomes a bargain for any other team once he clears waivers.
The Orioles contemplated signing Canseco to a minor-league contract under the condition that they promote him to the major-league roster by May 15 or release him.
Asked if such a contingency might apply to Castilla, Thrift replied, "We're not going to sign him, so it's not going to be contingent on anything."
There already exists a glut at third base. Cal Ripken, Jeff Conine and Mike Kinkade are sharing time there.
"We're trying to give our young players a chance. [Jose] Leon is playing third base at Rochester and doing very well. We moved him from Bowie. He was having a great year so I thought it was a great opportunity," Thrift said.
Lunar starts again
Confirming that Fernando Lunar has displaced Greg Myers as the Orioles' backup catcher, manager Mike Hargrove gave the rookie his second consecutive start last night. Hargrove said the move was influenced by Brook Fordyce's offensive struggles, as well as a preference to have Fordyce work with today's starter, Jason Johnson.
Despite hitting in three of his last five games, Fordyce is batting only .173 with one home run and five RBIs. He has struck out 16 times in 81 at-bats and managed only a .256 on-base percentage.
Lunar had made only two starts until Thursday against Tampa Bay. He helped himself with two hits, including a two-run double, and reached base in all four plate appearances. He was 1-for-4 last night with an RBI single.
Hargrove cited today's day game after a night game as "probably 90 percent of the reason that Fernando played tonight. Obviously, the fact he swung the bat well yesterday made it a little easier to write his name in the lineup, but the overriding reason is I'd really like Brook to catch Jason."
Hargrove backed off from any suggestion that he has appointed Fordyce as Johnson's personal catcher, saying he thinks such arrangements "absolutely stink."
Thrift had pressed for Lunar to receive more playing time. Hargrove acknowledged last night that the club's tilt toward youth now consigns Myers to his third catcher. Myers has not caught since April 29 but last night served as designated hitter for a second straight game, going 2-for-4 with two RBIs.
Kinkade's wait pays off
Sitting on a 2-for-24 skid over seven games before last night, Kinkade was not only waiting for another start, he was waiting for his right ankle to recover from a mild sprain, waiting to receive his Olympic ring, and waiting for his wife, Michelle, to deliver the couple's second child.
But he's no longer waiting for his first American League home run.
The Orioles utility man accomplished that last night, connecting off Mike Mussina as a pinch hitter leading off the sixth inning.
He was optimistic before the game despite no sign of at-bats and an average down to .241.
"In Minnesota, I was swinging through balls I should have hit," said Kinkade, before his third RBI in 56 at-bats. "I'd like to think if I saw those same pitches again, I'd do more with them."
Several of Kinkade's Team USA mates have already received their Olympic rings, but he continues to wait for his keepsake. His wife is due this month. Kinkade, who had two National League home runs, is on beeper alert until the team ends its six-game road trip tomorrow.
Around the horn
David Segui completed the first day of a rehab assignment yesterday at the Orioles' minor-league facility in Sarasota, Fla., homering and hitting three singles in eight at-bats. Segui led off every inning and, according to Hargrove, reported no ill effects from a hand injury. Hargrove reiterated that the club expects to activate the switch-hitting first baseman on Tuesday or Wednesday. ... Shortstop Mike Bordick accomplished an odd feat during this week's three-game series vs. Tampa Bay. Beginning with his final two at-bats in Tuesday's series opener, Bordick faced different pitchers in eight consecutive plate appearances. The string finally ended when Bordick saw Devil Rays starter Paul Wilson in consecutive at-bats Thursday. ... The Orioles already have tied a club record by receiving the first career win by five different pitchers -- Ryan Kohlmeier (April 2), Willis Roberts (April 11), John Bale (April 14), Chad Paronto (April 22) and Josh Towers (May 9). The feat ties a record set in 1989 when Pete Harnisch, Dave Johnson, Ben McDonald, Mickey Weston and Mike Smith won their first games. ... With Eugene Kingsale going to Triple-A Rochester, the Orioles reassigned outfielder Darnell McDonald to Double-A Bowie.