The Baltimore Orioles, who just a month ago seemed out of playoff contention, Monday made another move to bolster their team for the stretch drive, acquiring third baseman-outfielder Willie Greene from the Cincinnati Reds for outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds.
Greene, who is less than a year removed from his breakout season of 1997 when he hit .253 with 26 homers and 91 RBI, is primarily a third baseman but will provide Baltimore some flexibility and a left-handed bat off the bench. The 26-year-old Greene has played the outfield and even shortstop this season.
"Willie Greene gives us another solid left-handed hitter," said Orioles general manager Pat Gillick, who has seen his team post a 22-6 mark since the All-Star break. "He has the ability to play several positions and will provide (manager) Ray (Miller) with some flexibility on the bench."
Greene, who is hitting .270 with 14 homers and 49 RBI this season, is eligible for arbitration after this winter. He was also made expendable with the emergence of Pokey Reese, a favorite of manager Jack McKeon, and the acquisition of highly touted prospect Paul Konerko.
The addition of Greene could give Baltimore an opportunity to either move Cal Ripken back to shortstop or give him a day off. Ripken has played in 2,594 straight games and has come under intense scrutiny for refusing to rest. Ripken's numbers this season, a .269 batting average with nine homers and 48 RBI in 116 games, are nearly identical to those of Greene, who runs better.
Hammonds, 27, has battled injuries throughout much of his career and is hitting just .269 with six homers and 28 RBI in 63 games this season. Last year, he hit .264 with 21 homers and 55 RBI in 11 games.
"Jeffrey is a complete player with exceptional talent, but his injuries and durability always have been a problem," Reds general manager Jim Bowden said. "We realize, based on his history, that he is an injury risk, but we feel he's worth the gamble because of his potential."
Hammonds, a member of the 1992 U.S. Olympic team, is signed through the 2000 season and is slated to earn $1.33 million this season. Greene is making $1.75 million.
Baltimore, which was 15 1/2 games behind the Red Sox at the All-Star break, has closed within 8 1/2 games of Boston for the wild-card berth and has six games remaining with its longtime division rival. At the break it appeared the Orioles would deal high-priced free agents Rafael Palmeiro and Roberto Alomar but at the last minute decided to go for it and acquired former Toronto ace Juan Guzman to bolster their staff.
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