The Indians, who tried to get Baines before the July 31 trading deadline, claimed both the 40-year-old and right-hander Scott Erickson off waivers on Thursday and had until 1 p.m. Friday to make a deal with the Orioles.
Cleveland backed off on Erickson because Baltimore wanted too much in return and opted to pick up Baines for right-handed pitcher Juan Aracena.
"Harold is a professional hitter who gives us more options," Indians manager Mike Hargrove said Friday before Cleveland opened a three-game series against Tampa Bay. "We were able to bring in a veteran hitter with postseason experience. Given our injury situation, I think it's a very good deal. I think he'll be a big, big plus for us."
Baines, whose plane arrived just 1 1/2 hours before game time, was in the starting lineup at designated hitter and batting fifth. He barely had time to get dressed before he batted in the first inning, and he hit a two-run single off the wall in left-center to put the Indians up 2-0.
Hargrove said he would work Baines into a rotation with Richie Sexson, David Justice and Jim Thome at DH for the rest of the regular season.
"It's not a platoon situation," Hargrove said. "We'll rotate them and they'll all get their at-bats."
Baines, a 19-year veteran, has made the most of his 345 at-bats with the Orioles this year. Used exclusively at DH, he's hitting .322 (111-for-345) with 24 homers and 81 RBIs in 107 games.
"Harold is a great person who doesn't talk a lot but goes about his business. He just hits," said Indians second baseman Roberto Alomar, Baines' teammate in Baltimore last season. "He goes out there year after year and quietly just keeps putting up great numbers."
Baines is eligible to become a free agent after the season, and has expressed his desire to remain in Baltimore. So the Indians may be just getting him as a postseason rental if Baines decides to re-sign with the Orioles.
"From our perspective, it's sad to see him go," Baltimore GM Frank Wren said. "But this is a great chance for Harold to get into the World Series, and we wish him the best of luck."
With designated hitter/outfielder Wil Cordero still recovering from a broken wrist, Cleveland had been shopping for another quality hitter for the playoffs. The Indians could face right-handers such as Pedro Martinez, David Cone, Roger Clemens and Orlando Hernandez in October.
"He's a good hitter but once again, it's going to come down to pitching," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "You can have only nine guys in the lineup who can beat your brains out. He'll add to that."
Baines, who began his career in 1980 with the Chicago White Sox, is a .292 career hitter with 372 homers, 1,561 RBIs and 2,760 hits. He is currently tied with Cal Ripken Jr. for first among active players in career RBIs. He's third in games played and fifth in hits.
"He has been around long enough that I played against him," Hargrove said.
With Cleveland's pitching staff decimated by injuries, Indians general manager John Hart has been looking for another starter and talked with the Orioles about Erickson.
Hart said Erickson's $26 million, four-year wasn't an issue, but that the Orioles wanted too much talent in return: Jaret Wright and Richie Sexson, according to another team.
"Close doesn't even count," Hart said when asked if he nearly made a deal. "Either you do or you don't. We were unable to do anything more than Harold."
Hart couldn't pull off a big deal at the trading deadline to help the Indians, mainly because of the team's injury problems.
"We've added a professional player, a professional bat," Hart said. "And
as we get healthy it will add a lot of depth to our ballclub as we go
down the stretch."