Lowell may be part of a Burnett trade


SEATTLE - The Orioles remain in the running to acquire pitcher A.J. Burnett from the Florida Marlins, according to an industry source, with the package expanding to possibly include third baseman Mike Lowell. One source said the discussions have heated up, though some insiders believe the Chicago White Sox remain the favorites to land Burnett.

Burnett is a free agent after this season, and the Marlins have conceded that he won't re-sign. The Orioles want a front-line starter for the rotation, and they'd become a better match if willing to absorb Lowell's contract, which pays him $18 million over the next two seasons.

According to the source, the Orioles would acquire Burnett, Lowell and minor league outfielder Eric Reed for a package that includes reliever Jorge Julio, outfielder Larry Bigbie and Double-A pitcher Hayden Penn.

The source said reliever Steve Kline has been added to the discussions, and Sidney Ponson could be substituted for Penn. But one Orioles official called that scenario "far-fetched."

The Marlins would be hesitant to take on Ponson's salary. He's owed $8 million next season, with another $2 million deferred. Ponson has a limited no-trade clause that doesn't include the Marlins among the 10 teams that would require his permission.

Burnett is 5-6 with a 3.64 ERA. He allowed six runs in five innings of Thursday's start against Philadelphia, including three homers in the third.

Lowell would move to first base with the Orioles if a trade is consummated, since Melvin Mora is entrenched at third, and also provide another right-handed bat as the designated hitter or in reserve. Manager Lee Mazzilli said he wants to rest Rafael Palmeiro more in the second half.

Lowell batted .293 last year with 27 homers, 85 homers and an .870 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage), but he began last night hitting .226 with four homers and 36 RBIs.

The Marlins need help in the back end of their bullpen, and Kline has fallen out of favor with the Orioles. He'd welcome a trade after going 2-3 with a 5.57 ERA in 42 games before last night, and after being told that he'll be used more in middle relief.

Gil proceeding slowly

With Geronimo Gil still not cleared to hit or catch, it's unlikely he'll be activated when eligible on Tuesday.

Gil sprained his left thumb on June 4 and made nine starts before going on the disabled list.

"I feel better," he said. "It's a little sore [on one side] but it feels a lot better."

Rookie Eli Whiteside remains the backup to Sal Fasano. The Orioles don't expect Javy Lopez to come off the DL until after the three-city road trip that ends July 24. Lopez still hasn't been cleared to take batting practice.

Tejada is Roberts' MVP

Brian Roberts didn't win the Most Valuable Player award at the All-Star Game, and he doesn't expect to receive the honor in the American League. Not with Miguel Tejada in the picture.

"I'll never win an MVP in my life," said Roberts, who began last night hitting .344 with 15 homers and 49 RBIs. "You're going to have to put up some pretty big numbers and I'm not in that category."

Tejada was named MVP of the All-Star Game after hitting a bases-empty homer and driving in two runs. Roberts went 1-for-2 with a double.

"We feed off each other because we need each other to win," Roberts said. "If I'm on base, those guys can drive me in. If I'm not on base, they don't have anybody to drive in. I need them and they need me. We're pushing each other to make the team better.

"I love playing beside him. If I'm 0-for-4, he still has that energy that makes me want to laugh. Those are things I missed for a long time. With him out there, you can relax and have fun."

Food drive is a record

The Orioles collected a record-setting amount of monetary donations in their 18th annual food drive that concluded Sunday at Camden Yards. The Orioles Wives and Advocates hauled in 10,210 pounds of food and $20,520 in cash from fans attending three games. The previous high for cash donations, set last year, was $12,300.

Food items were given to the Maryland Food Bank for distribution. Cash donations will be used to purchase turkeys for needy families at Thanksgiving.

Sun staff writer Dan Connolly contributed to this article.

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