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Deal or no deal? O's expect resolution soon

The Erik Bedard trade saga is expected to be resolved soon as the Orioles and Seattle Mariners attempt to clear up issues that stalled a deal that was nearly completed earlier this week.

Reached last night, Orioles owner Peter Angelos declined to comment, referring questions to president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail, who did not return phone calls from The Sun.

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However, team officials expect the deal for the Orioles' ace, which would send young center fielder Adam Jones, reliever George Sherrill and pitching prospects Chris Tillman, Tony Butler and Kam Mickolio to Baltimore, to be resolved one way or another in the next couple of days.

Jones' pronouncement Sunday to a Venezuelan reporter that he was headed to Baltimore to take a physical because he was the centerpiece of the trade angered Angelos, who didn't want word to leak of the deal before physicals were taken.

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The Orioles canceled Jones' physical, which had been scheduled for Tuesday.

Angelos, a highly successful attorney, has long been wary of approving deals without a thorough - too thorough, his critics say - review of a player's medical history. His apprehension might have started late in 1998 when the Orioles announced they had signed free-agent pitcher Xavier Hernandez to a two-year, $2.5 million contract. The club's news release on the signing didn't mention that the deal was pending the results of a physical.

It was discovered that Hernandez had a tear in his rotator cuff, prompting Angelos to void the contract. Hernandez filed a grievance and the Orioles paid him a $1.75 million settlement.

A year later, the Orioles announced that they had agreed in principle to a four-year, $29 million deal with free-agent pitcher Aaron Sele. This time, they noted that the deal was pending a physical. The exam turned up concern about the condition of Sele's shoulder and led to Angelos nixing the deal and asking executives to try to negotiate a two-year contract with the pitcher.

Sele instead signed a two-year deal with the Mariners and went 32-15 over those two seasons.

If the Bedard-to-Seattle deal goes through, it would help the Orioles in their attempt to stockpile as much young talent as possible to buoy a rebuilding effort.

Jones, a 22-year-old center fielder who is one of baseball's top prospects, is the gem of the Mariners' offer. He was the team's first selection in the 2003 draft, its minor league Player of the Year in 2005 and made his major league debut in 2006.

Jones started the 2007 season at Triple-A Tacoma but earned a promotion to the big leagues after hitting .314 with 25 home runs, 84 RBIs and eight steals in 101 games. He hit .246 with two home runs and four RBIs in 41 games with Seattle last year.

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Jones likely would be the Orioles' Opening Day center fielder, and Sherrill probably would be the team's closer in 2008. The power left-hander went 2-0 with a 2.36 ERA in 73 appearances last year.

Tillman is the most promising pitching prospect in the Mariners' offer, though all three are big and have good arms. Tillman (6 feet 5, 190 pounds) is a 19-year-old right-hander who was Seattle's minor league Pitcher of the Year last season. In two minor league seasons, Tillman, a second-round pick in 2006, is 10-14 with a 4.93 in 38 appearances, including 33 starts.

Butler, 20, is a 6-7, 218-pound left-hander who went 4-7 with a 4.75 ERA in 20 games (18 starts) at Single-A Wisconsin last year. Mickolio, 23, is the biggest and perhaps the rawest of the group. The 6-9, 256-pound Montana native was dominant at Double-A last season, going 3-1 with a 1.82 ERA in 18 relief appearances. Those numbers earned him a promotion to Triple-A, where he went 3-3 with a 3.75 ERA and one save in 14 games, while striking out 28 in 24 innings.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com


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