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Trachsel delivering fine sales pitch

The Baltimore Sun

The Orioles are prepared for the phone calls to come as the nonwaiver trade deadline approaches in late July. Teams in contention for a playoff berth and trying to strengthen their rotation will inquire about pitcher Steve Trachsel. They'll gauge his availability and make an offer.

Trachsel would give a contender a veteran presence, a starter with 139 career wins. He also might give a team a few reminders that he offered the same qualities back in January, when nobody wanted him and he contemplated a season without baseball.

"Teams call about everybody," he said. "But if they didn't want me during the offseason, why would they want me at the trade deadline?"

Maybe it's the numbers he has put up so far - 5-4 with a 3.82 ERA in 13 starts - and how he has allowed three earned runs or fewer in 11 of them. Or maybe it's the short-term memory that makes clubs forget his playoff failures in 2006 with the New York Mets and the rumors, he said, that sabotaged his chances of signing a more lucrative contract.

"I laugh at how I look at all the other teams that picked other pitchers over me and how well they're doing, for three times the money," said Trachsel, who starts tomorrow night against the Washington Nationals at Camden Yards. "But there were a lot of things going on behind the scenes that contributed to that."

The Orioles didn't pursue Trachsel until learning that Kris Benson likely would require surgery to repair his right shoulder. They reached agreement with Trachsel on a one-year contract, with a club option for 2008, on Feb. 14.

He won 15 games for the Mets last year, but a 4.97 ERA suggested that offensive support was more responsible for the victories than his right arm. In his only start in the National League Championship Series, Trachsel allowed five runs in one inning in a Game 3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.

"I took a line drive off my kneecap, too. Everybody forgets about that," he said, a slight grin on his face.

"Yes, I had a horrible game against the Cardinals. I'm not the first guy to have it, and I'm not going to be the last. Obviously, I wanted it to be a lot better. I waited 13 years to pitch in the postseason, and unfortunately, it was bad timing with a lot of other stuff that came down on me and it definitely affected the way I pitched. But it doesn't change the person or the pitcher I am now.

"I won 15 games. Why doesn't that number count? It didn't count because I had a high ERA. But what about the years I had a low ERA and didn't win games? You can't have it both ways. You can't pick and choose which numbers you want to look at."

The postseason wasn't all that haunted Trachsel, 36, who's playing for his fifth organization. He was dealing with other issues that, he said, kept him on the market.

"I had a divorce dropped on me, so that was probably the biggest thing," he said. "And there were some more things that were brought up that had nothing to do with what I did. There was a lot of stuff going on, a lot of back talking."

Asked to elaborate, Trachsel said: "You'd have to get ahold of the people who were talking and see what they would say. They won't say it. I know what they said. That's the good thing about being around so long. You have friends on other teams that let you know what other people are saying.

"It definitely bothers me, but I know who the people are and what they were saying. There will come a time and a place when it gets addressed. I'm not saying who they are. They know who they are, and I know who they are. That's all that matters.

It didn't take long for Trachsel to gain the respect of his new teammates, though the bonding process was rushed because he signed so late.

"He's a quiet individual compared to some other guys in here, but if the young pitchers want to watch how he prepares for a game, looks at video, goes over all the charts, they'd learn a lot," catcher Paul Bako said.

"His consistency and his ability to make adjustments would be a couple things for the young guys to notice and watch and how he doesn't give in."

Manager Sam Perlozzo noted how Trachsel stabilized a young, battered rotation by "giving us quality starts almost every time out." Too bad the team is 6-7 in his starts.

"One of the other things I really like is his competitiveness and his work ethic," Perlozzo said. "If the guys watch him prepare for a ballgame, they'd learn something from him. He's very well prepared, very intense, very into the game. He doesn't have what you'd call great stuff, but he studies everybody and knows how to pitch, and that should be something they should all learn something from."

Trachsel counseled pitcher Jeremy Guthrie after the rookie stewed over a poor relief outing in Cleveland. The mentoring came unsolicited. It also played a part in Guthrie's becoming an effective part of the rotation.

"He was visibly dejected hours after that game," Trachsel said. "I finally sat him down and said, 'If you're going to have success, you've got to let that stuff go.' That was the team he came from and he really wanted to do well, and he was focusing on that instead of pitching. We've talked about that."

Guthrie pays special attention to Trachsel's actions, not just his words.

"One of the things is his preparation," Guthrie said. "To see him watching the games closely when he's not pitching, he really goes through the lineup, figures out how he wants to attack it. It's almost like that's helped me. I don't have to do as much as him because I follow him. I'm almost able to take advantage of his preparation by watching the way he pitches the day before me. You respect that."

All of these intangibles come to the Orioles for $3.1 million, a bargain at today's rates. They also hold a $4.75 million option.

"I think things are turning around here," he said. "I've got a good option that the team could pick up next year. If I continue pitching the way I am now, it's very affordable.

"I'm having fun and I'm pitching well. I feel as good as I've felt in a long time. All of that works."

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