Rochester, Twins close to finalizing Triple-A accord


Unless plans change in the next few days, the Orioles will have a new Triple-A affiliate for the 2003 season.

The Rochester Red Wings are on the verge of finalizing a working agreement with the Minnesota Twins. Jim Rantz, the Twins' farm director, indicated yesterday that an announcement could come later this week.

Rochester filed for free agency in August after 41 years with the Orioles - the longest affiliation between a Triple-A and major-league club. The Orioles would be left to choose between Canadian franchises in Edmonton and Ottawa, with a minimum two-year deal required.

"What other choice do you have?" said Syd Thrift, vice president for baseball operations. "It's not ideal, is it?"

Thrift dismissed the possibility of making Double-A Bowie the Orioles' Triple-A affiliate. "I wouldn't think that's realistic," he said.

Edmonton, a Twins affiliate the past two seasons, won the Pacific Coast League championship over the weekend by defeating Salt Lake. The Orioles could remain in the International League by reaching an agreement with Ottawa, but the franchise might remain the property of the Montreal Expos.

The Twins were concerned about the poor condition of Frontier Field, which often prevented teams from taking infield before games. The Rochester professional lacrosse team no longer will use the field, leaving the Red Wings and a professional soccer team the lone tenants.

"That was addressed from the get-go," Rantz said. "Everything went very well in the meetings. We got our questions out and they got theirs out."

Rochester, which needs to pick a parent club by Sept. 26, went 55-89 this season - its worst record in 23 years. Red Wings officials have become disenchanted by five straight losing seasons since winning the Governors' Cup in 1997, the worst stretch in franchise history since 1942-47.

While unable to confirm Rochester's pending departure, Thrift didn't seem surprised that the Red Wings were close to ending their affiliation with the Orioles. "I think it was almost inevitable," he said.

O's buy DuBose's contract

The Orioles purchased the contract of left-hander Eric DuBose yesterday and placed reliever Yorkis Perez on the 60-day disabled list.

Perez underwent an appendectomy Thursday morning at New York's Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. He had one save and a 3.29 ERA in 23 games.

DuBose, signed as a minor-league free agent during the winter, went 5-3 with three saves and a 2.51 ERA in 41 games at Bowie. He missed the 2001 season after having surgery to repair his left labrum and rotator cuff.

DuBose, 26, was a compensation pick of the Oakland Athletics in the 1997 draft after the Orioles signed shortstop Mike Bordick. The Detroit Tigers released him on March 31, 2001. He hasn't pitched in the majors.

Learning on the job

John Stephens didn't leave Yankee Stadium with a victory in Wednesday's start. He settled for receiving a valuable lesson.

The rookie from Australia retired 15 of the last 18 batters he faced after serving up a three-run homer to Alfonso Soriano in New York's 5-4, 11-inning win. Relying more on his looping curveball as the game progressed, he struck out eight over seven innings and left with the score tied, 4-4.

"I think John learned something," manager Mike Hargrove said. "You don't have to throw all your pitches to be successful. You need to find out what works for you that night and go to it."

Stephens, who also allowed a bases-empty homer to Robin Ventura in the second, appeared to get the message. The next step is carrying it through tonight's start against the Toronto Blue Jays.

"If they're not hitting something, I'm just going to stay with that and not always go with the other stuff," he said.

Stephens won't soon forget his appearance at Yankee Stadium, which came on the one-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks. Unaware that Major League Baseball would observe a moment of silence at 9:11 p.m., he became confused when plate umpire Angel Hernandez stopped the game and headed toward the mound.

"It was a little different at first," Stephens said. "The umpire was looking out at me and I was like, 'What's going on?' It was a pretty big impact just being out there. It was a special moment."

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