- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 4, 2002

BALTIMORE The Baltimore Orioles acquired outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. from the New York Mets for left-hander John Bale last night, a trade that gives them an extra outfielder with plenty of promise but a history of disappointment.
Matthews, the son of the former Phillies and Cubs outfielder with the same name, has long been regarded as a solid prospect but has bounced around four organizations since being drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 13th round of the 1994 draft.
"I like him because he's what we call a 'tools' player," said Syd Thrift, Baltimore's vice president of baseball operations. "He's got a plus-arm, he's a plus-runner, he's got plus power and he's only 27 years old. He's got high upside. All we have to do is see what we can do to help his average come higher."
In 255 career games with the Padres, Cubs, Pirates and Mets, the switch-hitting Matthews has a .217 average, 18 homers and 65 RBI. Thrift was not deterred by his frequent changes of address.
"He's been claimed by a lot of people," Thrift said. "That means a lot of people like him."
Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said Matthews, who was due to arrive from New York last night, will serve as a fourth or fifth outfielder in Baltimore, replacing Larry Bigbie, who was optioned to Class AAA Rochester. Out of minor-league options, Matthews will have to stay on the Orioles' roster or else be exposed to other clubs.
Last night's trade ended a strange day for Bale, who was earlier optioned to Rochester after clearing waivers. Acquired in 2000 from the Toronto Blue Jays for catching prospect Jayson Werth, Bale had been designated for assignment by the Orioles last Saturday, meaning he had seven days to be traded or claimed.

Mora starting in left
When Melvin Mora first learned this spring that he would be losing his starting job with the Orioles and would instead assume a utility role, he was understandably upset. After all, Mora started 119 games in 2001 (81 in center field, 37 at shortstop, one at second base).
What he didn't realize was that even in a utility role, he'd still wind up in the Orioles' starting lineup.
When starting left fielder Marty Cordova was placed the disabled list Sunday with a strained quadriceps muscle, Mora proved to be the benefactor. He made his first two starts in left field for the Orioles, including last night against the New York Yankees.
"This is one opportunity I've been waiting for, especially with Marty Cordova on the DL," said Mora, who made a diving catch in the second inning last night to help quash a Yankee rally. "We want him to come back to the lineup. But like I said, that's my job. If someone gets hurt, I'm going to play for them. If that's the job they want me to do, I'll be ready for it."
Mora's ability to play six positions in the field (all three outfield spots, plus second base, shortstop and third base) make him a valuable commodity for the Orioles, but only when Mora understands his role.
"He's almost cursed and blessed at the same time," manager Mike Hargrove said. "He's blessed that he's such a great athletic talent, and he's cursed that it doesn't really allow him to settle into one spot right now. Maybe down the road he will, but right now he's very valuable to us and to a lot of other clubs as a utility guy. I'm glad that he's come to terms with that."

Wide discrepancy
Player salaries for the 2002 season were released yesterday by The Associated Press, and the Orioles once again find themselves well behind the Yankees.
New York topped the list with a total salary of $125,928,583. The Orioles ranked 16th out of 30 teams at $60,493,487. That number is slightly misleading, though, because it includes money being earned by players not currently on Baltimore's roster like Albert Belle ($12.3 million), Pat Hentgen ($4.2 million) and Chris Richard ($300,000). Counting only the 25 active roster members, the Orioles' salary is somewhere around $41 million.

Extra bases
Hargrove said he'll wait until "the last minute" before making an official announcement on No. 5 starter Calvin Maduro's availability to pitch Sunday against the Boston Red Sox. Maduro, on the DL with a strained right forearm, is eligible to come off Saturday. Once he does return, the Orioles will likely have to drop a position player (perhaps third-string catcher Fernando Lunar).
Gary Williams, Maryland's newly crowned national champion basketball coach, attended last night's game and was greeted with a hearty cheer from the crowd.

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