TORONTO - Injuries might keep Jerry Hairston and Gary Matthews from playing the final series of the season for the Orioles, but both players have already made their mark, and both could be looking at significant pay raises for next year.
Hairston pulled a muscle in his left groin on Wednesday and was not in the lineup last night against the Toronto Blue Jays. Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said: "I wouldn't be surprised if he's out the rest of the year."
The same goes for Matthews, who hasn't had an at-bat since Aug. 23, when he went down with a severe case of tendinitis in his right wrist.
Still, both players made sizable gains this season, and both might have acquired enough service time to become eligible for salary arbitration.
Most players aren't eligible for arbitration until after they have played three full seasons in the big leagues, but a special clause in the collective bargaining agreement rewards players who fall just short of three years.
At season's end, Matthews will have two years plus 144 days of service time, and Hairston will have two years plus 138 days. Baseball takes all the players with two-plus years of experience, and the top 17 percent (based on service time) qualify for arbitration as Super Twos.
Matthews and Hairston won't know for sure until after the season, but as a general rule of thumb, players with two years plus 130 days usually qualify.
This complicates matters for the Orioles this offseason because they will probably have nine players eligible for arbitration. The others are Sidney Ponson, Melvin Mora, Chris Singleton, B.J. Ryan, Chris Brock, Calvin Maduro and Raul Casanova.
The first time Ponson was eligible for arbitration, after the 2000 season, his salary jumped from $400,000 to $2.1 million.
Players aren't eligible for free agency until they have six years of service time, and the Orioles have four potential free agents: Mike Bordick, Pat Hentgen, Luis Lopez and Yorkis Perez.
The Orioles have a $6 million option on Hentgen's contract but will likely use the $600,000 buyout and negotiate with him as a free agent.
Matthews made $237,500 this season and enjoyed a breakout year after getting traded from the New York Mets. He hit .276 with 25 doubles, seven home runs, 38 RBIs and 15 stolen bases, and Hargrove has said he can't envision a starting outfield for next season that doesn't include Matthews somewhere.
Hairston made $300,000 this season and Hargrove calls him the most improved player on the team.
After batting .233 last season with a .305 on-base percentage, Hairston lost his starting job to Brian Roberts earlier this season then won the job back, hitting .268 with a .328 on-base percentage.
Ryan's second half
Ryan, making $300,000 this season, will also be arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason, and a strong second half should bode nicely for him. The left-handed reliever had a 7.18 ERA in 34 appearances before the All-Star break. After the break, he's posted a 2.03 ERA in 32 appearances.
"You're always looking for a breakthrough year, and you'd like to think that's what this has been for him," Hargrove said. "He's been very good this year."
The Orioles will honor Bordick tonight for his record-setting streak of consecutive errorless games at shortstop. Cal Ripken will be among those on hand for a pre-game ceremony that is scheduled to start at 6:50.
Ripken held the previous American League record for consecutive errorless games by a shortstop at 95, setting the mark in 1990. He also had the major-league record for consecutive errorless chances at 428.
Bordick broke both of those marks this season, along with Rey Ordonez's major-league record streak of errorless games by a shortstop (101).
Bordick has played 107 consecutive errorless games and his five chances last night gives him 528 straight without an error.