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O's Sign Saunders; Delgado Unlikely

By Jorge Arangure Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 20, 2005; Page D09

BALTIMORE, Jan. 19 -- In an offseason becoming more miserable by the day, one in which they've fallen woefully behind in the pursuit of free agent first baseman Carlos Delgado, the Baltimore Orioles set themselves up Wednesday for at least the possibility of a feel-good story later this year.

The Orioles signed pitcher Tony Saunders, a Baltimore native and graduate of Glen Burnie High School who was out of baseball for almost five years because of a serious arm injury. Saunders won't likely have a significant effect on the team's record, as Delgado might. But if Saunders, 30, does take the field, it would cap a remarkable comeback for the left-hander.


The Orioles appear to be last on the list of four teams free agent Carlos Delgado is considering. (Adrian Wyld - AP)

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The Orioles are quickly coming to the realization that Delgado won't be signing with them. The sides have not had serious talks this week and aren't scheduled to do so. Baltimore has made only one offer for Delgado, a three-year, $25 million bid in early December that is way below market value for a player who has averaged 37 home runs and 118 RBI the past five seasons. Their offer is not competitive to what has been offered by Delgado's other three suitors -- the New York Mets, Texas Rangers and Florida Marlins. The Orioles have quickly fallen to the bottom of Delgado's list.

According to one source, the Baltimore front office has not been able to persuade owner Peter Angelos, who team officials say is wary of spending money without a compensation agreement with Major League Baseball for the Washington franchise, to increase the team's bid.

Agent David Sloane, who represents Delgado, flew to Puerto Rico on Wednesday night and is scheduled to meet with a group of Mets officials Thursday. Sloane will meet with Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks on Friday.

Saunders's story could truly be inspiring. In 1999, Saunders broke the humerus bone in his left arm during a start for the Florida Marlins against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. In a rehabilitation start 15 months later, Saunders broke the bone again. Two days later he retired with a career record of 13-24 with a 4.56 ERA in three seasons.

Last summer Saunders began throwing batting practice for an AAU team and was persuaded by the coach of that team to attempt a comeback. In December, Orioles scout Ty Brown, who originally signed Saunders for the Marlins in 1992, recommended signing the lefty after watching him throw.

"I think I'm throwing harder now than during my last rehab," Saunders said.

On Wednesday, Saunders's minor league deal with the Orioles was finalized.

"There's no doubt he's going to help the club," Brown said. "It's going to be a great story for Baltimore."


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