Some players and coaches were ribbing Angel pitcher Chuck Finley on the flight from Dallas to Baltimore the other night. "Hey Fin, guess you'll be getting traded soon," one said. "Hey Fin, have fun at the World Series," said another.
Tim Salmon heard the comments, and it suddenly hit him: Finley, a 14-year veteran, an Angel for life, the last remaining link to the last Angel team to make the playoffs, one of those rare players to spend his entire career with one franchise, might get traded.
"It's saddening to think this might be the last week with him as a teammate," Salmon said. "He's been the mainstay here, the guy you always expect to be in the clubhouse when you go to the spring training, the horse you can always count on."
Both the Yankees and Indians, who would like to saddle up Finley and ride him into the playoffs, had scouts in Camden Yards on Sunday to watch the Angel left-hander give up five runs on eight hits and strike out five in six innings, the last two runs charged to him when reliever Mark Petkovsek gave up Albert Belle's three-run homer.
Finley, who can veto any trade but has said he would be open to a deal to a contender, said Sunday he will speak with General Manager Bill Bavasi in the next few days to sort things out.
"I don't have the slightest idea what's going on," Finley said. "I don't know if they're trying to re-sign me, put a package together to trade me or a list of teams together for me to look at [for prospective trades]. I'm so confused right now, I don't know. I'm sure in the next few days, something will happen."
The scariest moment in Sunday's game came when Angel closer Troy Percival's 95-mph tailing fastball hit Cal Ripken Jr. on the left ear flap of his helmet in the 10th, knocking him to the ground but not out.
Ripken got up almost immediately and jogged to first, much to the relief of a Camden Yards crowd that adores him, and he had no hard feelings toward Percival afterward.
"He throws so hard, he just broke off a nasty breaking ball on me," Ripken said. "He was probably reaching back for something extra and lost control of it. I don't imagine he was trying to hit me on the coconut. I'm just glad it hit me on the helmet and not my hand."
* Opponent--Tampa Bay Devil Rays, three games.
* Site--Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Fla.
* Today--4 p.m. PDT
* Record vs. Devil Rays--3-3.
* TV--Channel 9 today and Tuesday.
* Radio--KLAC (570), XPRS (1090)
* Records--Angels 42-55, Devil Rays 41-58.
ANGELS' OMAR OLIVARES
(8-8, 3.78 ERA)
DEVIL RAYS' BOBBY WITT
(5-6, 5.65 ERA)
* Update--The Angels, who have dropped nine games in the standings in the last 10 days, had only six hits in each of their three losses to Baltimore, though Garret Anderson extended his hitting streak to 16 games and Salmon moved into second place on the Angels' all-time RBI list with his 621st run batted in Sunday.
* Tuesday, 4 p.m. PDT--Steve Sparks (4-7, 5.16) vs. Mickey Callaway (1-0, 6.00).
* Wednesday, 4 p.m. PDT--Jack McDowell (0-1, 1.59) vs. Ryan Rupe (4-5, 4.96 ERA).