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Orioles Continue Player Purge

The Chicago White Sox enhanced their already potent offense Saturday night by obtaining catcher Charles Johnson and designated hitter Harold Baines from the Baltimore Orioles for catcher Brook Fordyce and three minor league pitchers.

The White Sox started the day leading the AL in runs and batting .290 as a team, just one point behind league-leading Boston. The addition of Johnson and Baines should make a solid offense even better.

Johnson is batting .294 with 21 homers and 55 RBIs. Baines, a left-handed batter, is hitting .266 with 10 homers and 30 RBIs in 72 games.

The Orioles earlier in the day traded right-handed reliever Mike Timlin to the St. Louis Cardinals for first baseman Chris Richard and minor league pitcher Mark Nussbeck.

With virtually no hope of reaching the playoffs, the Orioles (44-58) are working toward the future. Baltimore traded Mike Bordick to the New York Mets on Friday and are trying desperately to add some pitching to its depleted minor league system.

The three pitchers in the deal are all right-handers: Miguel Felix, Juan Figueroa and Jason Lakman.

"I think obviously Brook Fordyce is a very good major league catcher," manager Mike Hargrove said. "Also, the three pitchers we got in return are very good prospects. You get an immediate return in that you get a proven major league player, but also you look at the long term with these three pitchers ... and you can see where we have a chance to get better as the years come.

"It's one of those deals that's good for both teams. The White Sox get two very good players and we get what we need, also."

First-place Chicago was delighted to get back Baines, who has already done two stints with the White Sox, as well as Johnson, who is known for his prowess behind the plate as well as his talent at the plate.

"Harold gives us a veteran left-handed bat, and Charles is one of the game's top defensive catchers," White Sox general manager Ron chueler said. "Both will play key roles with our club and their experience will be a plus. It's great to add both to our team for the stretch drive."

Johnson was in his second season with the Orioles after being acquired December 1, 1998, in a three-team trade from the New York Mets. He hit his 100th career home run Saturday afternoon against Cleveland.

His contract expires after this season, and the Orioles feared losing him for good.

Fordyce, 30, hit .272 with seven doubles, five homers and 21 RBIs in 39 games for Chicago after starting the season on the disabled list with a broken foot.

Figueroa, a 21-year-old native of the Dominican Republic, is in his fourth pro season. He was 2-3 with a 3.40 ERA in 10 starts since moving up to Double-A Birmingham.

Lakman, 23, is in his sixth pro season. He was 2-2 with one save and a 4.14 ERA in 27 games for Birmingham this season. He was primarily a starter until this season; he made 22 relief appearances to begin the year before starting two of his last five outings.

Felix, a 23-year-old native of the Dominican Republic, is in his sixth pro season. He was 0-0 with a 7.64 ERA in 27 relief appearances at Class A Winston-Salem.

Figueroa and Lakman will report to the Orioles' Double-A Bowie farm team and Felix will report to Class A Frederick.

"All three pitchers have fine arms, they all have high up-sides. Figueroa has a chance to pitch in the big leagues by next September," said Syd Thrift, the Orioles vice president of player personnel.

Thrift has made his objective this month to add pitching to a team that has given up at least 10 runs in 19 games this year.

"We've had a plan of improving pitching, period, from the major leagues down," he said. "We've had the development of pitchers in our minor league system, and the addition of these new pitchers in recent days puts us in even a stronger position."

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