NEW YORK - Once again the center of trade speculation, Orioles right fielder Brady Anderson yesterday refused to dismiss the possibility of waiving his no-trade leverage. Anderson said he would refrain from taking a stance "until they put something in front of me."
Orioles vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift, meanwhile, dismissed reports in yesterday's editions of the New York Times that cited a major-league executive as saying the Orioles were preparing to approach Anderson about waiving his no-trade protection. Anderson enjoys such protection because of his service time and as part of the five-year, $31 million contract he signed after the 1997 season. Orioles majority owner Peter Angelos has long regretted the deal, according to club sources, and believes Anderson's presence runs counter to the club's retooling efforts.
Asked if there was a plan to seek Anderson's permission for a deal, Thrift said, "None of that has reached my ears. I would think I'd know if that was discussed."
Anderson waffled last season when the New York Yankees expressed interest in both him and B. J. Surhoff. After briefly saying he would consider a trade, Anderson modified his stance, saying he wanted to finish his career in Baltimore.
"For all the talk about it, they've never put a deal in front of me. Never," Anderson said before yesterday's series finale against the Yankees.
Pressed on whether he would be inclined to accept or deny such a request by the organization, Anderson reiterated that he could not voice an opinion without knowing specifics of the situation.
In the fourth year of a five-year deal, Anderson has suffered a sluggish start while being scrutinized for several recent defensive gaffes in right field. He was in a 9-for-62 funk covering his previous 15 games before going 2-for-5 yesterday.
He was given his second game off Saturday after two misplays in Friday's eighth inning. The expected return of David Segui from the disabled list tomorrow will force Chris Richard to the outfield. The desire to play Richard every day will likely "pinch" Anderson's playing time, according to manager Mike Hargrove.
Anderson, 37, leads the team with 140 at-bats but has managed only a .186 average, two home runs, three stolen bases, 10 RBIs and a .268 on-base percentage.
Anderson entered the season with a career .261 average, .436 slugging percentage and .366 on-base percentage. "Brady works hard every day. He's an all-out guy," Thrift said. "You're always talking about ways to improve your club for right now, for three years from now ... in five years. But I know of no plans [to approach Anderson] right now."
Any deal involving Anderson would be complicated by his contract, his tenure and the need to find a contending team in need of a player no longer considered a center fielder by a second-tier club. The Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers and Colorado Rockies represent possible matches.
Mercedes in neutral
Another start, another bite of frustration for Jose Mercedes.
Mercedes endured his eighth winless start yesterday after allowing the Yankees three earned but undeserved runs in the third inning. He left a tie game after 6 2/3 innings because second baseman Jerry Hairston allowed the Yankees an extra out with a poor decision on a ground ball.
The American League's winningest pitcher during last season's second half remains 0-6. He continues to address an ERA that fell to 6.54 yesterday but remains powerless against poor offensive support and regular defensive misadventures.
The Orioles scored only three of their runs with Mercedes in the game - they have scored more than three runs only once this season with Mercedes in the game.
Mercedes allowed all of his runs yesterday with two outs in the third inning because left fielder Delino DeShields could not find back-to-back fly balls. Fielders on both teams encountered problems picking up the ball, but DeShields' were most obvious."[Mercedes] was outstanding today," Hargrove said. "He gave up three runs on two broken-bat base hits and a ball off the end of the bat. He got some big outs against some very good hitters."
"I can't blame myself for everything that happens. Sometimes there's nothing I can do. I've had no run support, and I've had bad luck. What else can I say?" said Mercedes, who entered the game leading the AL in losses.
In his past two starts, however, Mercedes has more resembled the pitcher who won 11 games after the All-Star break in 2000. Reviewing film with pitching coach Mark Wiley has helped him to return to a more deliberate windup. Mercedes also has rediscovered better separation between the velocity of his fastball and his changeup. "There was a time when he was throwing his fastball 83-84 at the beginning and his changeup 80-81," said Hargrove, adding that he considers a 10-mph separation between fastball and changeup to be optimum. "Now he's closer to 90-91 with his fastball and working his way up."
"What I've been doing the last two games is what I did last year," said Mercedes, who has walked only one in his past 21 2/3 innings.
Around the horn
Segui will be examined today in Baltimore by team doctors after making a three-day rehab assignment at the Orioles' minor-league complex in Sarasota, Fla. Segui has been disabled since April 23 because of a strained tendon of the middle finger on his left hand. His injury interrupted a string of three consecutive multi-hit games that raised his average from .167 to .271. Hargrove anticipates an accompanying roster move involving a relief pitcher. The only way the Orioles could avoid returning to an 11-man pitching staff would be a trade involving catcher Greg Myers. The Detroit Tigers are believed to have moderate interest in Myers, and the Anaheim Angels remain hamstrung with two Triple-A catchers. ... Cal Ripken extended his hitting streak to seven with a ninth-inning double. ... Bernie Williams' ailing father had a heart attack yesterday, and the Yankees' center fielder made plans to again return to Puerto Rico.