Conine happy strike averted


ANAHEIM, Calif. - Every player in the Orioles' clubhouse had varying degrees of interest in the labor negotiations. For Jeff Conine, the timing of a possible work stoppage couldn't have been much worse.

A strike might have wiped out the three-game series against the Anaheim Angels, along with any chance that his sister, Renee, had of seeing him play live for the first time since the Kansas City Royals first called him up to the majors in 1990.

She had been living in Moscow for the past 12 years with her husband and three young children. The family moved to the United States on July 1 and stays with her parents in nearby Riverside, Calif., about a 30-minute drive to Edison International Field.

Renee, 39, couldn't attend the last series in Anaheim, which coincided with her trip to the United States. She sat in the stands for Friday's game, while her husband, Sergei, tried to comprehend a sport he never had watched, and she returned last night.

"It was cool," Conine said. "They had just flown in when we were here the last time, and she didn't have a chance to come to a game."

Renee's religion took her to Russia 12 years ago. She was "pioneering" as part of her Bahist faith - similar to a Mormon mission - and living with different families. Conine would see her once a year, usually around Christmas.

"I never made it over there. I wanted to, but I never had the opportunity," he said.

Renee and Sergei, who met in Siberia, decided to leave Moscow because life there had become too difficult. "They wanted something better for their kids," Conine said.

Draft update

The Orioles still hope to sign their first-round pick, Adam Loewen, before he re-enters the draft, but they must concede a loss in the 11th round.

Pitcher Mark McCormick attended classes at Baylor University last week. Because he chose a four-year school rather than a junior college, McCormick won't be eligible for the draft until 2005.

Loewen, the fourth overall selection in June, attended classes at Chipola JC in Marianna, Fla. The team can't negotiate with him until a brief window before the 2003 draft, and will lose his rights once it reaches the "close period."

McCormick was considered a long shot to join the Orioles because of his alliance with agent Scott Boras. Once considered a first-round talent, he slipped in the draft when teams grew concerned about his signability.

Schoeneweis: easy target

The next time Angels reliever Scott Schoeneweis enters a game, perhaps the reception will be a little friendlier. Time does heal all wounds, especially those inflicted with words.

And even when the choice of words includes "totally classless."

That's how Schoeneweis described Angels fans after they threw foul balls and debris onto the field and chanted "No strike! No strike!" in the late innings of Thursday's game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

"I thought it was a very innovative idea," said Orioles manager Mike Hargrove.

Ridiculed for being too laid-back and easily distracted - beach balls are batted around during games - the crowd displayed an unusual degree of passion.

Those feelings also were evident in the eighth inning of Friday's game against the Orioles, when fans booed as Schoeneweis walked in from the bullpen with two outs. He's the Angels' player representative, and an easy target for the crowd.

"Our fans have been great all year," said Schoeneweis, offering an apology. "They've been a valuable piece of what we're trying to do here, and hopefully that will continue and they'll get to see an October here in Southern California."

Around the horn

The Orioles have determined which players will be added when rosters expand but won't announce the moves. They'll likely call up Larry Bigbie, Brian Roberts, Jose Leon and Luis Matos, with Howie Clark another possibility. ... The short-season Bluefield Orioles lost to Bristol, 4-3, in 10 innings in the Appalachian League final. Bluefield went 45-23 during the regular season to win the East Division. The roster included Dustin Yount (.241, 14 homers, 51 RBIs), son of Hall of Famer Robin Yount, and Joe Coppinger (5-2, 4.38 ERA), brother of former Orioles pitcher Rocky Coppinger.

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