Byrnes might fit better in '08 than before

With Corey Patterson a pending free agent, the Orioles likely will be looking for a new starting center fielder in 2008.

And the class that could be available is much ballyhooed, led by Atlanta's Andruw Jones, Minnesota's Torii Hunter and Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki.


But here's a lesser name -- yet one familiar to Orioles fans -- who could be had for less money than the above-mentioned bank-breakers: Arizona's Eric Byrnes.

The Orioles went this route once before, trading Larry Bigbie to Colorado for Byrnes in July 2005. An off-the-charts energy guy with surfer looks and a refreshingly honest demeanor, Byrnes started out hot for the Orioles, then fizzled, eventually batting .192 with three homers in his two-month stint here.


Byrnes said he couldn't get comfortable, going from Oakland to Colorado to the Orioles in one season. In the week that he arrived in Baltimore, Rafael Palmeiro's failed drug test was announced, manager Lee Mazzilli, who enthusiastically welcomed Byrnes, was fired and the Orioles went into a free fall.

"It started off a little awkward, but I have no excuses on how I played here," Byrnes said recently. "I busted my [butt] here, I gave it my all and it just didn't work out. But I loved it here, and I would have loved to have stayed here."

Byrnes said he would have taken a slight pay cut from the $2.25 million he was making, but the Orioles nontendered him and he signed with the Diamondbacks for the same money. Then he had a career year -- hitting 26 homers and stealing 25 bases.

He's showing that it wasn't a fluke. In his first 74 games this season, he had a career-best average (.318) and on-base percentage (.368) and had 11 homers and 14 steals. If he keeps it up, Byrnes will get a big payday. And don't be surprised if the Orioles are at least in the discussion.

"For the two months I was here, I made a lot of friends," said Byrnes, 31. "I loved it here, I loved the ballpark, I loved playing for the Orioles and I loved the city."

Pedro over proximity

Pittsburgh starter Ian Snell, a 26th-round pick who is developing into a top-of-the-rotation starter, grew up near Dover, Del., basically in the middle of Orioles and Philadelphia Phillies territories. So which team did he cheer for as a teen?

"The Red Sox. I loved Pedro Martinez, man."


He said most of his friends were Boston or New York Yankees fans. But when he went to a big league game it was either at Camden Yards or old Memorial Stadium.


"To see Cal Ripken."

Free-agent pitching disasters

Anybody else starting to get the feeling it's not worth spending money on the free-agent market for starting pitchers? The Los Angeles Dodgers signed Jason Schmidt in the offseason to a three-year, $47 million deal, a million less than what the Orioles had offered. He went 1-4 with a 6.31 ERA in 25 2/3 innings. Now he's done for the season, and maybe beyond, with a torn labrum.

Toronto's A.J. Burnett, the big-money starter from the 2005 winter class, is on the disabled list again, and San Francisco's Barry Zito, who signed a seven-year, $126 million deal this offseason, is 6-8 with a 4.83 ERA in 15 starts.


A betting man

According to the best odds listed by one Internet betting site, Barry Bonds will hit his 756th home run on a Wednesday in July on a 1-0 count in the first or sixth inning. It will most likely be a bases-empty homer to right field in San Francisco and will come off a right-handed pitcher. Oh, and the over/under on how long it will take him to round the bases on the historic homer is 27.5 seconds. Seriously.

Quote of the week

"Right now it's, 'Oh, he's a little chubby. He likes to eat.' When you're not hitting .340 with 40 home runs, they're going to call you a fat boy from Venezuela. You'd better lose some weight.'"

-- Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen on his friend and fellow Venezuelan Miguel Cabrera, third baseman of the Florida Marlins. The two had dinner last week, and Guillen again stressed to Cabrera, 24, that he needs to be in better shape as he gets older if he wants to have a Hall of Fame career.

Quick hits


Arizona pitcher Doug Davis had gone hitless in 51 at-bats -- the longest active streak in the majors -- before he singled Tuesday against Tampa Bay. ... The Braves' Jones took a .199 average into yesterday, the lowest it has ever been this late in a season.