<
>

O's leading contender to sign Ortiz off scrapheap

The Baltimore Orioles are the leading candidates to sign pitcher Russ Ortiz, who was released by the Arizona Diamondbacks despite having $22 million left on his four-year, $33 million contract.

"The Orioles are the frontrunners, for all the obvious reasons," agent John Boggs told ESPN.com. "The main one is Russ' relationship with Leo Mazzone. Right now we're just trying to narrow in on some clubs. Nothing is in concrete yet, but we're going to decide pretty quickly."

Ortiz posted a 36-16 record with the Braves in 2003-2004 when Mazzone was the team's pitching coach. Mazzone left Atlanta to be the Orioles' pitching coach this season.

The Chicago Cubs also are believed to have interest in Ortiz. Starter Kerry Wood could miss the rest of the season with shoulder problems, and Ortiz pitched for Chicago manager Dusty Baker on the San Francisco Giants' World Series club in 2002.

Ortiz was a disaster in Arizona, posting a 5-16 record with a 6.94 ERA over 28 starts. But Boggs has received calls from several clubs because Ortiz can be signed for the pro-rated portion of the major-league minimum salary of $327,000.

While Ortiz focuses on his next destination, former Arizona teammate Terry Mulholland might be closing in on retirement. Mulholland, 43, also was waived by the Diamondbacks this week.

"If it's not the right situation, I think Terry would be content to stay home," agent Joe Bick said. "It was a little bit of a shock for me to hear him even hint at the possibility of not playing. I've represented him since 1984, and I've never heard him utter a word other than, 'I want to keep playing.'"

Mulholland pitched only three innings for Arizona this season because of an inflamed bursa sac in his elbow and an ear infection. He has a career record of 124-142 in 20 seasons with 11 clubs. His best stretch came from 1989-1993 with Philadelphia, when he posted a 54-50 record as a starter and pitched in a World Series.

Mulholland was known for having a great pickoff move and being a popular player in the clubhouse.

"The thought of not having him as a client after 22 years kind of breaks my heart," Bick said. "He's everything you would ever want a professional athlete or a person to be."

Jerry Crasnick covers Major League Baseball for ESPN Insider.