The Baltimore Orioles have expressed interest in free agent outfielder Raul Mondesi, although Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Jim Beattie characterized the talks to this point as "very, very preliminary."

"When a player like that becomes available," Beattie said, "you make a call and gauge the interest."

The Orioles have lacked a legitimate right-handed bat on their bench all season, and their need for outfield help appeared to grow when right fielder Jay Gibbons had to be helped off the field in Tuesday night's ninth inning with severe back spasms.

However, Beattie said he called Jeff Moorad, Mondesi's agent, several days ago -- well before Gibbons's latest flare-up. Gibbons, meanwhile, is still listed as day-to-day, and Manager Lee Mazzilli said he does not expect Gibbons to go on the disabled list.

Mondesi, 33, was released by the Pittsburgh Pirates after he failed to return from an 11-day leave of absence, during which he traveled to his native Dominican Republic to deal with a sticky legal situation involving an associate who claims Mondesi owes him $640,000. Mondesi, who was ordered to pay the amount by a Dominican judge, cited fear for his family's safety as a reason for his absence.

Mondesi told the Associated Press in the Dominican Republic that he is likely to choose between the Orioles, the Boston Red Sox and Anaheim Angels. He is believed to be seeking a two-year deal.

"If I'm going to sign, it will happen before the end of the week," he told the AP. "There are other clubs interested in me, but I want a team that has an opportunity to advance to the postseason."

Mondesi is a career .276 hitter with 266 homers and 842 RBI in 12 seasons. He was on a one-year, $1.75 million contract with Pittsburgh and was hitting .283 with two home runs and 14 RBI in 99 at-bats before his termination. He was paid $13 million last season by the New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks. . . . .

Yankees right-hander Kevin Brown was excused by the team to attend to "personal business" and will miss his scheduled start in Thursday night's series finale. He will be replaced by right-hander Jose Contreras.

Loewen to DL

The Orioles placed Class A Delmarva left-hander Adam Loewen, the top prospect in the organization, on the disabled list because of a muscle strain in his ribcage, farm director Darrell "Doc" Rodgers said. "It's improving," Rodgers said, "but it just needed a little longer."