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Zeile Likes His New Place--in Race Again

Orioles: Trade from last-place Philadelphia to playoff-contender Baltimore is fine with him.

September 03, 1996|CHRIS FOSTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANAHEIM — Todd Zeile had been expecting the trade for the last month.

The Philadelphia Phillies were going nowhere and the Dodgers were going to great lengths to bring him him to Los Angeles. Zeile virtually had his bags packed. It just turned out to be a shorter trip.

Instead of L.A., Zeile is playing third base in Baltimore. Not that he's complaining. He made a guest appearance Monday in Southern California, hitting two home runs in the Orioles' 12-8 victory over the Angels at Anaheim Stadium.

"It seemed like I was hearing an awful lot about L.A.," Zeile said. "I forgot that in this game, the more you hear, the less likely it is to happen. When I heard that Baltimore was interested, I was gone the next day."

Which was fine with Zeile, who was ready to leave the last-place Phillies. He had been moved from third to first base--and was the first National League first baseman in 91 years to commit four errors in a game--and saw no future in Philadelphia.

But the Dodgers finally backed off, after the Phillies kept asking for outfielder Roger Cedeno in return. So it was off to Baltimore with outfielder Pete Incaviglia for a player to be named.

"I picked up 25 games in the standings in one day," Zeile said.

The Orioles are looking to pick up a few more, with Zeile's help.

They have chased the Yankees much of the season and have matched them trade for trade the past month. But while Yankee deals have ended up as juicy headlines in New York, Oriole maneuvers have had some meat to them.

The Yankees, who led by 12 games July 28, now lead the Orioles by four.

The Orioles were looking to beef up their right-handed hitting and did so in one deal. They acquired Zeile and Incaviglia. Before the Aug. 29 trade, the Orioles were 18-22 against left-handed pitchers. They are 2-1 since.

Zeile is seven for 15 since coming to the Orioles. Incaviglia hit home runs in his first two games.

The Orioles have moved to within four games after trailing by 12 on July 28.

Monday certainly validated Zeile's acquisition. He was placed second in the batting order, behind left-hander Brady Anderson, who hit his 42nd home run Monday. The move worked as intended.

"If you want to pitch around Brady and face the Philadelphia Phillies' clean-up hitter, that's fine with me," Manager Davey Johnson said.

Zeile hit a bases-empty homer on a 3-2 pitch in the first and another one in the third, giving the Orioles a 4-3 lead. Both came off Shawn Boskie, who has given up a major league-leading 34 home runs.

It was the third time this season Zeile has hit two home runs in a game.

"I saw Mr. Zeile for the first time and that was enough," Angel interim Manager Joe Maddon said.

Zeile nearly hit a third in the sixth, but hooked a line drive just foul. He then beat out an infield single. He also reached on an error in the eighth.

The Orioles hit five home runs Monday, giving the 15 in five games. They now lead the major leagues with 221.

"I can't think of a better situation than hitting behind Brady and in front of [Roberto] Alomar," Zeile said. "It's nice to have your home runs mean something in September."

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