- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 1, 2001

BALTIMORE Unwilling to deal away their most marketable players and unable to find takers for most of their second-tier names, the Baltimore Orioles managed to squeeze in one trade just before yesterday's 4 p.m. non-waiver deadline passed, sending right-handed reliever Mike Trombley to the Los Angeles Dodgers for two prospects.

Perhaps more noteworthy than Trombley's departure in exchange for right-hander Kris Foster and catcher Geronimo Gil was the fact that, at the end of the day, Jeff Conine, Melvin Mora, Jose Mercedes and Sidney Ponson all rumored at one time or another to be on their way out were still Orioles.

"I was kind of prepared not to make any moves," vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift said. "As a matter of fact, [the Trombley trade] occurred at 3:59:25. I mean, seriously, it couldn't have been any closer. Not making any, that would have been fine, too. Sometimes the ones you don't make are the best ones."

The versatile Conine, who plays first base, third base and the outfield, had more trade value than any other potentially available player and received plenty of interest from contending teams like the Atlanta Braves and Chicago Cubs. But Thrift wasn't about to trade his team's best offensive player, one whose absence would create a substantial void in the Orioles' lineup.

"It made no sense to give up Jeff Conine," Thrift said.

Baltimore was willing to part with Mercedes, last year's 14-game winner who has struggled to a 5-12 mark in 2001. But there weren't many serious offers for the 30-year-old journeyman, particularly after fellow pitchers James Baldwin, Rick Reed, Jason Schmidt, Sterling Hitchcock and Albie Lopez were dealt to contenders in the past week.

Thus, one year after dealing away six veterans at the July 31 deadline, the Orioles concluded this season's trading period having made just one move, one that hadn't been highly anticipated in recent days.

"A lot of times in Minnesota [where he spent eight seasons], my name would come up and I wouldn't get traded," said Trombley, 3-4 with a 3.46 ERA in 50 appearances. "You just kind of learn to never be shocked because a lot of things can happen. As a middle reliever, you're always wondering this time of year."

In exchange for the 34-year-old Trombley, who was signed through 2002, the Dodgers sent Baltimore Foster, a 26-year-old reliever with a fastball in the upper 90s, and Gil, a 25-year-old catcher known for his defensive skills.

Originally a 39th-round selection by Montreal in 1992, Foster was 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA and 12 saves at Class AAA Las Vegas this season after beginning the year at Class AA Jacksonville. The hard-throwing righty, who hit triple digits on the radar gun during a game last month, missed most of the 2000 season after undergoing shoulder surgery. He appears to have overcome those arm troubles, though, and is expected to join the Orioles' bullpen today.

"I think it's a good deal for us," Baltimore manager Mike Hargrove said. "It brings us a power arm. Statistics show that he's a strike-thrower, and he fits in well with the back end of our bullpen."

Gil, who will report to Class AAA Rochester, is in his seventh professional season and was batting .295 with nine homers and 40 RBI in 82 games at Las Vegas this season.

Notes Hargrove named Calvin Maduro his starter for tomorrow's game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in place of rookie Willis Roberts, who suffered a mysterious knee injury Saturday but appears to be healthy.

"We're just going to give Willis a little more time," Hargrove said. "I think his knee's fine, to tell you the truth. But we'd rather be safe than sorry."

If Maduro (0-2 with a 3.16 ERA in 11 games this year) performs well, he could supplant the enigmatic Roberts, whose game preparation methods have been questioned, in the starting rotation… .

David Segui (sore right knee) was eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list yesterday, but according to Hargrove, the first baseman is still a few days away from returning… .

Melvin Mora, whose wife gave birth to quintuplets Saturday morning, was not with the team last night so he could be with his newly enlarged family. Both the babies and Gisel Mora are reported to be in good health.

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