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Finley Deals With Matter

TIMES STAFF WRITER

For a guy who controls his baseball destiny--at least as it pertains to the uniform he will be wearing this coming week--Angel pitcher Chuck Finley claimed to know little about his immediate future Friday.

As Friday afternoon turned to evening, nearly 24 hours before today’s 9 p.m. PDT non-waiver trading deadline, Finley had still not spoken to Angel General Manager Bill Bavasi, who spent much of Friday trying to work out a deal to send Finley to either the Cleveland Indians or New York Yankees.

“He’s still up there trying to put together the best package he can,” Finley said before the Angels’ 3-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins before 38,319 in Edison Field. “There’s no use telling me until they have a deal they like.”

Finley finally met with Bavasi after the game, but a team spokesman said it was to bring the pitcher up to date on the situation, not to inform him of a deal.

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Finley, who can veto any trade because he has played at least 10 years in the major leagues, five with the same team, reiterated Friday that he would only approve a deal to the playoff-bound Yankees or Indians, but Cleveland may have emerged as the front-runner.

Talks with the Indians have focused on speedy infielder Enrique Wilson, who could fill the void left by Thursday night’s trade of second baseman Randy Velarde to Oakland, and minor league pitchers Willie Martinez, David Riske and Jared Camp.

Martinez, a 21-year-old from Venezuela, is 9-5 with a 4.00 earned-run average at double-A Akron. Riske, 22, is a highly touted closer who had 33 saves and 2.33 ERA at Class-A Kinston in 1998 and has split this season between Akron (0-0, 1.90 ERA, 12 saves in 23 games) and triple-A Buffalo (3-0, 0.96 ERA, three saves in 16 games). Camp, 24, went 1-1 with a 7.50 ERA in 11 games at Akron before recently being promoted to Buffalo.

An Indian package for Finley, who has a 16-9 career record against the Yankees and had two superb outings against New York this season, would likely include Wilson and either one or two pitchers.

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The Yankees have discussed sending pitcher Ramiro Mendoza and top pitching prospect Ryan Bradley to Anaheim, a potential deal Yankee owner George Steinbrenner endorses because he wants to keep Finley away from the Indians and is fed up with struggling left-hander Andy Pettitte, who the Yankees have been trying to trade to the Phillies.

But Yankee sources said Friday that Manager Joe Torre and General Manager Brian Cashman prefer not to disrupt their current rotation--even with Pettitte--and that Steinbrenner may defer to them in the Finley matter.

Finley is scheduled to start tonight’s game against the Twins, but if a deal is imminent, he will probably be scratched. If he somehow starts and a deal is consummated at the 11th hour, it’s possible Finley could begin the game as an Angel and leave it as an Indian or Yankee.

Though it has been an incredibly frustrating season for Finley, who has played his entire 14-year career in Anaheim, it’s doubtful the left-hander would leave with as bitter a taste in his mouth as Velarde, who endured an emotionally draining day Thursday. His mother-in-law suffered a massive heart attack, and then he was dealt to the A’s with Omar Olivares.

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“I’m pretty much burnt mentally,” Velarde told reporters in Oakland Friday.

But Velarde, who was very critical of Manager Terry Collins earlier this season, was relieved to leave the Angels, who have spent the last two weeks losing 13 of 14 games and ripping each other in the newspapers.

“It’s not a good atmosphere over there right now,” Velarde said. “It’s good to get out of it and get a fresh start with a team that’s young and hungry. We’ll see a lot more Indians over here than chiefs.”

Things didn’t get much better for the Angels Friday night, as Twins right-hander Brad Radke threw a complete-game seven-hitter to drop the Angels 17 1/2 games behind Texas in the American League West. Radke has an 8-2 career record and 1.57 earned run average against Anaheim.

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Angel starter Ken Hill (3-10) took himself out of the game with one out in the seventh after giving up one run on six hits, but Collins said he was “out of gas” and didn’t report any problems in Hill’s oft-injured right elbow.


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