To see Sanders on O's bench, visualize playoffs

The Baltimore Sun

Kansas City Royals outfielder Reggie Sanders is too smart to say he wouldn't want to play for the 2007 Orioles.

He is buried in the Royals' outfield and has no control of where he can go. With the Orioles desperately needing a right-handed power bat off the bench, Sanders, who hit 11 homers in 325 at-bats in 2006 and 21 or more in the five preceding seasons, is an intriguing fit.

The Orioles thought so and could have acquired him this spring for left-hander Brian Burres. But they weren't sure how the veteran would handle a bench role once Jay Payton returns from injury. Sanders isn't sure, either.

"At this particular point, because it is so early, I don't know," said Sanders, who is at Camden Yards this weekend with the Royals. "That's where the confusion in my mind is. OK, I could say, 'Yes, I'd love to come here.' But what does that equate to?

"It's a good thing I am here early so I can really see where [the Orioles] are going, what they are doing, who they have, because [the trade talk] is all somewhat new," said Sanders, who signed a two-year, $10 million deal with the Royals in 2006.

You can't blame him if he's not thrilled by the idea of being an Orioles backup, but if they were a playoff contender, here's betting he'd happily be a part-timer. He has made six playoff trips (three to the World Series) and, at age 39, his chances to return are waning.

He'll be traded somewhere, for sure, because he still has some value and he won't be getting to the playoffs this season with Kansas City.

More Sanders

Speaking of Sanders, when Royals management approached him to wear No. 42 today in remembrance of Jackie Robinson, his reaction was: " 'Oh, my God.' I was a bit overwhelmed.

"I know how important it is to give back and honor and show strength," said Sanders, who prides himself on his community work. "And that's what he was all about, strength."

However, Sanders is a little torn when he hears that some full teams are wearing No. 42 today. Although the exposure is great, Sanders would prefer that players wearing the retired number be truly touched by Robinson's sacrifices and not just doing it because it is required.

"It's tricky, because if it becomes this big deal, this big circus, more than it should be, I don't want that," Sanders said. "The honor should be deserved."

Another cool tribute

Inspired by the Robinson decision, the Cleveland Indians are petitioning Major League Baseball to allow some or all of their players to wear No. 14 during the July 5 game at Detroit.

That's the 60th anniversary of Cleveland's Larry Doby breaking the American League color barrier. Hall of Famer Doby's number was retired by the Indians in 1994.

Bullpen praise

Offseason whispers throughout baseball criticized the Orioles' decision to spend $42 million to upgrade their terrible bullpen - primarily because relief pitching is the sport's most unpredictable commodity. But count Tigers manager Jim Leyland among the believers after watching Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo shuttle in pitchers last week.

"I'm really impressed with the versatility in the bullpen, the different looks," Leyland said. "It looks to me like they've done a great job in putting their bullpen together."

Disturbing trend

By now, everyone knows the Washington Nationals' starting pitching is shaky and their offense anemic, but one scout who watched them recently says their defense is even more problematic. The club thought it would improve on last year's league-worst fielding percentage with the expected return of shortstop Cristian Guzman. But with Guzman and first baseman Nick Johnson shelved, baseball's worst defense might have regressed - if that's possible. They had a league-leading 11 errors in their first 10 games.

Quote of the week

"I'm 72 years old, and I'm not hopping on a plane and flying all the way to San Francisco for anybody." - Hall of Famer Hank Aaron telling "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution" that he would not be present if San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds breaks his career home run record this season.

Quick hits

Former Oriole Rodrigo Lopez threw 144 pitches to the 49 batters he faced in his first two starts for the Colorado Rockies, an impressive 2.94 pitches per batter, lowest in the majors. ... The Milwaukee Brewers have 18 bobblehead giveaways this season. ... The San Diego Padres' Greg Maddux turned 41 yesterday.

Compiled from interviews and other newspapers' reports.

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