Mound trouble piling up

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 1:20 PM ET

Four days to go and this July 31 non-waiver trade deadline is shaping up like one 13 years ago.

In 1993, the Blue Jays desperately needed another starter. Two members of their aging rotation had losing records.

This year, the Jays need another starter and they have talked to the Baltimore Orioles about Rodrigo Lopez and to the Philadelphia Phillies about Cory Lidle.

A new arm is on the way in former No. 1 pick Dustin McGowan, who starts Saturday in Oakland against the A's. McGowan is 4-5 with a 4.73 earned-run average in 13 starts at triple-A Syracuse. He has drawn interest from other clubs.

Roy Halladay, Ted Lilly, A.J. Burnett and Gustavo Chacin are a combined 30-15 going into last night's game in Seattle. Chacin, currently on the disabled list, and Burnett, who started last night, have not been in the rotation at the same time.

The Jays have gone 42-17 in starts made by Halladay, Lilly, Burnett and Chacin.

However, the arms who have filled the fourth and fifth spots -- Casey Janssen, Josh Towers, Ty Taubenheim, Shaun Marcum and Scott Downs -- have a combined record of 9-24. The Jays are 14-27 in those games. Enter McGowan. Goodbye Janssen.

The pitching disparity has led general manager J.P. Ricciardi to pursue Lidle and Lopez with the American League wild-card berth suddenly within range.

Lidle, 34, who will be moved before the deadline, is 7-7 with a 4.91 ERA. He is not the same as David Cone coming over the hill from the New York Mets in 1992.

Neither is the 30-year-old Lopez, 6-11 with a 6.73 ERA in 21 starts, as he has walked 39 and struck out 76 in 121 2/3 innings.

Are they better than Janssen, who was rushed to the bigs?

Can Vernon Wells play centre?

Are most big-leaguers Republicans?

The Phillies may make righty Jon Lieber available as well before the Monday deadline of 4 p.m.

In 1993, with four hours before the deadline and unable to acquire a starter, the offensive-minded Jays decided to improve by adding a bat. They sent former No. 1 pick Steve Karsay to the Oakland A's for leadoff man Rickey Henderson. Henderson had to waive his no-trade clause.

An hour later Woody Woodward, GM of the Seattle Mariners, agreed to send lefty Randy Johnson to the Jays for Todd Stottlemyre and Mike Timlin -- if the Henderson deal fell through.

Henderson had until 11:30 p.m. to waive his no-trade clause, which he eventually did, once the A's gave him cash. Henderson arrived and while he hit peanuts .215 -- 64 points below his career average -- he was 22-for-25 in base stealing, pleased his new employers with his on-base percentage of .356 and walked to lead off the ninth in Game 6 of the World Series against Mitch Williams of the Phillies, beginning a three-run rally.

That year Pat Hentgen was on his way to a sixth-place finish in the Cy Young Award voting, going 19-9 with a 3.87 ERA. Juan Guzman was 14-3, with a 3.99 ERA, and Dave Stewart was 12-8 with a 4.44 mark.

Stottlemyre was 11-12 with a 4.84 mark and Jack Morris, a 20-game winner in 1992, was scuffling to a 7-12 mark with a 6.19 ERA.

This year the need is the same -- a spot at the back end of the rotation or more bullpen help.

With little available, Lopez and Lidle appear to be two of the best. As of yesterday afternoon the Jays and Phils did not have a match for Lidle.

Oakland's Barry Zito only can be obtained in a blockbuster. Ditto for Dontrelle Willis of the Florida Marlins. The White Sox have pitching to move -- Brandon McCarthy along with prospects Lance Broadway and Ray Liotta -- but they are trying to land the top name available in Alfonso Soriano of the Washington Nationals.

Relievers Scott Linebrink of the San Diego Padres and Roberto Hernandez of the Pittsburgh Pirates also are available. The Padres want a third baseman and the Pirates want anyone breathing under the age of 25.

If the Jays can't obtain an arm, will baseball's best offence -- a .294 team average -- get even stronger by adding shortstop Julio Lugo from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays?

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WILL THE JAYS MAKE A PITCH?

- Pitchers that could be available to the Jays with the trade deadline looming, according to Bob Elliott (stats not including yesterday):

RODRIGO LOPEZ

RHP, ORIOLES 6-11, 6.73 ERA, 121 2/3 IP

CORY LIDLE

RHP, PHILLIES 7-7, 4.91 ERA, 117 1/3 IP

JON LIEBER

RHP, Phillies 3-7, 5.55 ERA, 84 1/3 IP

BARRY ZITO

LHP, A's 10-7, 3.52 ERA, 143 IP

DONTRELLE WILLIS

LHP, Marlins 6-7, 3.97 ERA, 143 IP

BRANDON MCCARTHY

RHP, White Sox 3-4, 4.06 ERA, 51 IP

SCOTT LINEBRINK

RHP, Padres 6-2, 3.72, 481/3 IP

ROBERTO HERNANDEZ

RHP, Pirates 0-3, 3.00, 42 IP


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