Milligan sprain slows outfield experiment

March 08, 1991|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Sun Staff Correspondent

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Randy Milligan made his exhibition debut in left field yesterday at Ed Smith Stadium, but he wasn't out there long enough to get the feel of the place.

Two innings into the Baltimore Orioles' Grapefruit League opener, he sprained his right ankle slightly in a collision at first base and had to be removed from the game.

The Orioles went on to score an 8-0 victory over the Chicago White Sox, but the club's outfield experiment will be put on hold for at least a day or two. Both Milligan and fellow outfield intern David Segui have suffered injuries this week, though neither is considered particularly serious.

"It's just good that it happened now, if it had to happen," manager Frank Robinson said. "There's plenty of time to adjust. If it had happened late in the spring, we might have had a problem."

Segui is recovering from a strained muscle in his left buttock. Milligan collided with White Sox first baseman Frank Thomas in the top ofthe third inning and took a nasty fall, but said he could have stayed in the game if necessary.

"I could have gone back out there, but it's spring training and Frank didn't want to take any chances," he said. "I'll be back out there tomorrow. I guarantee it."

Robinson would not stand behind that guarantee. He said Milligan probably would not make the trip to Port Charlotte for today's game against the Texas Rangers no matter how the ankle feels.

"I'll probably leave him back tomorrow just to be sure," Robinson said. "Why take a chance with him now? He can take the day off and get his swings in when we go to the East Coast [Fort Lauderdale] this weekend."

It is a sign of Milligan's desire to master the outfield that he is so eager to get back out there. He didn't get to touch the ball in his abbreviated debut yesterday, which might have been a blessing considering the brisk wind that was blowing from right field to left.

"I wasn't nervous," he said. "In fact, I was saying, 'Please hit it this way.' This is the time of year I can mess up and no one will rip me. I'm going to make mistakes. But if I can minimize those mistakes, I can play out there."

No one would have been surprised if he had sprained his ankle running into an outfield fence, but this injury was a byproduct of a sloppy defensive effort by the White Sox yesterday.

It took a bad throw by Chicago third baseman Robin Ventura to put Thomas in Milligan's path. Milligan tried to avoid him, but he was tripped up and sent into a tailspin.

"He was just trying to pick the ball up," Milligan said. "When he did, his momentum carried him inside the bag. I was about two steps from him and I tried to step around him. Right when I was coming down on the bag, he chopped my left leg and I jammed my [right] ankle a little bit."

Though he reported the pain to be minimal, it is possible that he could be sidelined for several days. He iced the ankle to reduce swelling (which wasn't significant) before heading back to the club's home base at Twin Lakes Park for further treatment.

It was the only sore spot in an otherwise positive afternoon. Four Orioles pitchers combined to hold the White Sox to just four hits, while the revamped offensive lineup debuted with a 12-hit barrage that included a mammoth home run by designated hitter Sam Horn.

The club travels south to Port Charlotte today to take on the Texas Rangers before going across the state to Fort Lauderdale to play two weekend games against the New York Yankees.

Right-hander Bob Milacki will be the starter today, with left-hander Jeff Ballard scheduled to pitch the middle three innings. Both are coming back from frustrating 1990 performances, so their exhibition work will be closely scrutinized by the coaching staff.

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