Jefferies Questions Trade That Sent His Friend Zeile To Orioles He's Unsure About The Phils' Commitment To Winning After His Close Friend Todd Zeile Is Unloaded.

Posted: August 31, 1996

Gregg Jefferies and Todd Zeile have been close friends for years, and they had been almost inseparable since Zeile came to the Phillies this season. Their wives were close, Jefferies said, their boys were born the same year, and their houses were a couple of blocks apart.

When Zeile went to an airport hotel Thursday night so he could catch a 6 a.m. flight to Seattle to join his new team, the Baltimore Orioles, it was Jefferies who drove him. The two couples had gone out for dinner one last time. It was an emotional evening, Jefferies said.

Last night, Jefferies said he was happy that Zeile (traded along with Pete Incaviglia) was going to a contending team. He just wasn't sure about the message the trade sent out about the Phillies' commitment to winning.

He recalled how Phillies president Bill Giles had said in July that the club would go out and sign two or three top-line free agents. ``Now we need to get three or four,'' Jefferies said.

Zeile, who had hit 20 home runs and led the Phillies with 80 RBIs, and who will turn 31 in two weeks, was going to be a free agent after this season, as was 32-year-old Incaviglia. For them, the Phillies are expected to get minor-league pitchers Calvin Maduro and Don Florence as soon as the two members of the triple-A Rochester Red Wings clear waivers.

Asked how much it would have taken to keep Zeile, Jefferies said, ``Not much. That's the thing. He wanted to stay here and the ownership never even offered him a contract. . . . He would have signed here.

``When Todd left, it didn't help this team. . . . I hope they are committed to winning.''

This is the second time this month that a player has commented on front-office matters. When Curt Schilling suggested that the club needed to keep Benito Santiago, Lee Thomas told him to concentrate on pitching. Last night, he had a similar suggestion for Jefferies.

``Gregg Jefferies has to worry about playing left field and hitting and leave the rest of it to us,'' Thomas said.

Thomas said the club didn't offer Zeile a contract because ``I felt it wasn't going to work out.'' Zeile is a natural third baseman, and Scott Rolen is the club's third baseman now. Thomas said the Phillies are committed to bringing in another first baseman or signing someone to play left field and moving Jefferies back to first base. With Rolen's arrival, the timetable just moved up a little, Thomas said.

HELP COMING FROM ARUBA. Sometime next week, history might be made at the Vet. The Phillies could be featuring the first major-leaguer ever from Aruba. Maduro, who will turn 22 Thursday, already is the first from that island to make it as far as triple-A.

Maduro speaks four languages, English, Spanish, Dutch and Papamiento. More important facts about him are that people in the Baltimore organization considered him someone who would eventually make a serviceable big-league pitcher, but not necessarily a star. Listed at 6 feet tall (perhaps generously), Maduro throws a fastball in the mid- to upper-80s as well as a curveball and three kinds of change-ups. He is considered poised for his age.

The other pitcher expected to arrive in the deal, Florence, is a throw-in who was actually told last week that he was being released by the Orioles, only to apparently wind up in this deal.

Maduro pitched last night for Rochester and got rocked, giving up four runs, six hits and four walks in 3 2/5 innings. An Eastern League all-star in double-A, Maduro had a 1.91 ERA in his first five starts for Rochester, but has given up 16 earned runs in his last 10 2/5 innings.

As for Florence, it will be interesting to see if he actually shows up. Last night, Orioles farm director Syd Thrift told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle that Florence had ``definitely been released. It's hard to trade what you don't have.''

SID SURGERY. The Phillies said lefthander Sid Fernandez will have his sore elbow operated on Wednesday in Los Angeles by Lewis Yocum. It will probably be an arthroscopic procedure, team physician Phillip Marone said in a statement.

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