-- The second Sidney Ponson era in Baltimore, mired as much in frustration as failure, will come to an end if the Orioles can persuade Phil Nevin to move to the East Coast, which is a remote possibility at this point, according to agent Barry Axelrod.
The Orioles, according to one American League source, have tentatively agreed on a trade that would send Ponson to the San Diego Padres in exchange for first baseman Phil Nevin. But the trade is dependent on Nevin waiving his limited no-trade clause, which blocks any deal to eight teams. The Orioles are included on that list.
Axelrod said the Padres and the Orioles have asked the commissioner's office for a brief window in which Baltimore can speak directly to Nevin.
"That would open the door for us to talk to people from the Orioles," Axelrod said. "We have questions about what Phil's role would be there."
Both sides are expected to speak on Sunday.
Axelrod didn't rule out that Nevin would accept the trade but did say the first baseman did not necessarily want to leave San Diego because his children live there and he recently had a house built in the area.
"I still think it's not likely," Axelrod said of waiving the no-trade clause. "We're going to listen to what they have to say."
Axelrod said he and Nevin had not discussed asking the Orioles for a contract extension or any such type of salary demand.
According to one baseball source, the Orioles had already made preparations in case Ponson had been traded before Saturday's game. Erik Bedard, pitching on normal rest because of an off day on Thursday, would have started in place of Ponson and the Orioles would have recalled minor league pitcher John Maine to start on Sunday.
"They are rumors, that's all they are," Manager Lee Mazzilli said prior to the game. "Unfortunately it's a part of baseball, but a rumor is a rumor. Sidney is pitching tonight for the Baltimore Orioles that's where we're at."
Mazzilli said he did not expect the rumors to be a distraction for Ponson. And they weren't, as he pitched seven innings and allowed just three runs in the 3-2 loss.
In a season and a half, Ponson, entering Saturday's game, was only 18-23 with a 5.55 ERA. Hitters were batting .313 against him in that time span. The team had wanted to trade Ponson two months after he was arrested in Aruba for punching a judge on Christmas, but found no takers. The club was also angered that Ponson tried to hide a DUI arrest in January that was only discovered because a South Florida Sun-Sentinel reporter was trying to find out about an altercation the pitcher had in March in a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., restaurant.
The biggest knock on Nevin has been durability. The first baseman has been on the disabled list seven times in his 12-year career and five times in the past three seasons. Nevin, 34, had a career-high 41 home runs for the Padres in 2001 and is hitting .263 with nine home runs this season.
The swap essentially will be a financial wash: Ponson is scheduled to make $19.5 million over the next year and a half; Nevin will make $19 million in that time.
Also, according to a baseball source, the Orioles have shelved talks with the Florida Marlins for A.J. Burnett and Mike Lowell because of financial reasons and because of the Orioles' growing concern the pitcher is not a certain top of the rotation starter. Burnett, a free agent after the season, will ask for a contract of four years, $50 million to $55 million, according to one industry source. The Orioles aren't certain Burnett is worth it.
Baltimore will use the remaining seven days before the July 31st trading deadline to determine which pitcher they will try to acquire. One possibility is Cleveland Indians pitcher Kevin Millwood, who is 3-9 with a 3.34 ERA and is a free agent at the end of the year. Millwood, who one American League executive said would be available, won't likely cost Baltimore nearly as many players as Burnett would have.