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Club and R. Lopez set for arbitration

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Unable to reach a contract agreement with starter Rodrigo Lopez, the Orioles appear to be ready to go to arbitration with their winningest pitcher from 2005.

The arbitration hearing is scheduled for this morning at the Renaissance Vinoy hotel in St. Petersburg, Fla. Lopez, who has won 14 or more games in three of his four seasons as an Oriole, is seeking $4.5 million. The Orioles have offered $3.75 million.

Scott Boras, Lopez's agent, will represent the right-hander, who made $2.575 million last season. Orioles general counsel H. Russell Smouse will lead the club's efforts. Smouse is 5-0 as lead presenter in arbitration cases.

If no agreement is reached before the scheduled hearing - and Orioles officials have maintained all along that the two sides are a ways apart - it will mark only the ninth time since Peter Angelos became the club owner in 1993 that the club has reached this stage with a player.

The Orioles have lost only one of those eight hearings (Ben McDonald).

The Orioles started the process with a league-leading nine arbitration cases. Lopez and All-Star second baseman Brian Roberts are the only two players whose 2006 contract status has not been resolved.

Roberts has asked for $3.6 million, and the Orioles have offered $2.4 million. If the two sides can't reach an agreement, the arbitration case will be heard on Monday.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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