As usual, O's Conine hears trade rumors


SEATTLE - Orioles first baseman Jeff Conine has been through this countless times, with trade talk swirling around him, making him wonder where he's going to finish the season.

At least this time, the talk involves the Florida Marlins, the team that plays a short drive from his family's offseason home in Weston, Fla. Conine is still known as "Mr. Marlin" in those parts after being named the 1995 All-Star Game Most Valuable Player.

Last week, the Marlins approached the Orioles about swapping first basemen - Conine for Derrek Lee. To land a young cleanup hitter such as Lee, the Orioles would probably have to eat some of the $7 million Conine has remaining on his contract, which includes an option for 2005.

Conine's agent, Michael Watkins, flew to Seattle and had dinner with Conine on Monday night. They talked about Conine's desire to stay in Baltimore and his preferences should he have to leave.

Would the Marlins be a good fit?

"Yeah, that's where I live," said Conine, who had three hits last night. "If you look at places that are desirable, it's where you live or playoff contending teams. If you have to go somewhere, that's where you want to go."

But Conine's first preference would be to stay in Baltimore. After signing his contract extension last spring, Conine and his wife, Cindy, bought an apartment in Baltimore. They have three young children, and the family gets to spend their summers together once school ends.

"This is my fifth year here," Conine said. "I enjoy Baltimore. I love the stadium. I like everything about it, and I'd love to be here when we're a playoff contending team. I think that place could be pretty special."

Conine, 37, has never been traded, but his name always seems to pop up before the trade deadline.

There had been talk that the Los Angeles Dodgers were interested in Conine, who grew up in Southern California, but major league sources say they have less interest now with Fred McGriff at first base. Conine can play the corner outfield positions and third base, but his best position is first.

After sweeping Philadelphia this past weekend, the Marlins also pulled back a little in the Lee-for-Conine talks, so maybe that won't happen either.

More trade buzz

The Orioles may decide to trade Melvin Mora or starting pitcher Sidney Ponson, but according to one major league general manager, "they're asking for the moon."

Teams that have asked about Ponson have been told it will take the top players in their system, and the same goes for Mora, who was a career .249 hitter before this year's breakout season.

The Atlanta Braves are one of the teams with interest in Ponson, but there's some doubt that the Braves would be willing to part with catching prospect Johnny Estrada.

Segui sits again

David Segui has been out of the starting lineup for the past nine games with a sore right knee. Manager Mike Hargrove said he would watch Segui take batting practice yesterday before deciding whether to use him as a pinch hitter in last night's game.

Segui struck out in both of his pinch-hit appearances since he last started a game on June 27. Last night, however, he had a pinch-hit, RBI single in the eighth inning.

Bigbie progressing

Larry Bigbie is still on the Orioles' disabled list with a strained right hamstring. He resumed his running regimen and has started taking batting practice at the team's extended spring training facility in Sarasota, Fla.

Ripken Series update

More than 1,500 tournament passes have been sold for next month's Cal Ripken World Series in Aberdeen. They remain on sale through TicketMaster (410-461-SEAT) or at the Ripken Stadium box office.

Tournament passes cost $20 for adults and $12 for children (10 and under), and provide access to the entire tournament, which runs from Aug. 14-24.

Fifteen teams of 12-year olds from around the world will play.

Anyone interested in being a tournament volunteer or host family to players should call 410-297-9085.

Sun staff writer Roch Kubatko contributed to this article.

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