After completing only his second workout of the season yesterday, Tim Wittman pronounced himself ready to play tomorrow night when the Baltimore Blast meets the Kansas City Comets in Kansas City, Mo.
"I'm physically ready to play," Wittman said. "It's up to [the Blast] now if I play. I don't know if I'm game fit, but I've felt good during practice both days. I haven't been winded or anything like that. The ball's in their court."
Blast coach Kenny Cooper said Wittman will play against the Comets (1-1), the first of back-to-back contests. The Blast plays its home opener Saturday at the Baltimore Arena against the St. Louis Storm at 7:35 p.m.
"Dr. Ciotola [Joseph, Blast physician] and Dr. Neal [Bill, therapist at Kernan Hospital] have assured me Timmy's ready to play," said Cooper after yesterday's practice at Myers Pavilion. "Timmy's not the type player who can play with caution. He's smart and knows he's back. He's going to play in Kansas City. We'll take it shift by shift with him. I'm not prepared to say right now how much he'll play."
Cooper said the return of Wittman, who was out four weeks with a degenerative disk problem, would give the Blast (0-1) a "lift and a spark."
Blast trainer Marty McGinty said Wittman is able to play so soon because "he's always in shape no matter what time of the year it is or how much he's been hurt. Tim Wittman is a superbly conditioned athlete."
Wittman said: "I've been riding the bike, stair climbing and working out on a cardiovascular machine. It would be different if I had done nothing. I'd like to start the first half and sit out the second if necessary. The best way to do it is to put me out there and if I slack off, take me out."
Cooper said he would go with a three-line rotation (three deep at striker and midfield positions) against Kansas City to keep Wittman, a midfielder, and his other players fresh.
There will be one major position change tomorrow night for the Blast.
Mark Mettrick, who has been used almost exclusively as a defender in his first two seasons with Baltimore, will be moved to the midfield.
Cooper said he is making the switch to help the aggressive Mettrick avoid foul trouble under the new Major Soccer League rule, a personal four-foul rule that hits a player with a two-minute penalty after four fouls in a half.
"The new rule hurts Mark because he likes to mark a player closely and draws some fouls," said Cooper. "He was a midfielder in college [Hartwick] and a good passer with good skills. The four-foul rule requires a coach to looks at a player's strengths and use them at the best position."
Cooper said Richard Chinapoo and Mike Stankovic, longtime defenders who recently have been moved to midfield, would return to their normal defender positions.
"Richard and Mike have hard shots that are very effective from the back," said Cooper.
NOTES: Billy Ronson's scheduled workout yesterday as a backup goalkeeper to Scoop Stanisic was postponed until today when Ronson was forced out of practice because he is being fitted for some new orthotics (plastic casts) for the big toe on his right foot. Ronson has used the orthotics that were designed by McGinty since the middle of last season to alleviate tendinitis in his toe (turf toe).
Rusty Troy worked in the goal Tuesday, the day after Scott Manning strained a lateral ligament in his left ankle that has sidelined him from two to three weeks.
Ronson and Troy will be used in an emergency tomorrow and Saturday night should Stanisic get hurt.