Once and for all, the Baltimore Orioles want to get Ben McDonald healthy.
Last night, they placed their prized right-hander on the 15-day disabled list for the second time this season because of recurring stiffness in the flexor muscle near his right elbow.
The move is retroactive to Thursday, the day after McDonald was bombed for six runs while pitching one inning against the Detroit Tigers.
To replace McDonald on the roster, the Orioles purchased the contract of right-hander Roy Smith from the Rochester Red Wings.
"The pain never really did go away," said McDonald. "It's not normal at this stage. Basically, the doctors told me it never healed from spring training."
The good news is that an MRI examination and X-rays revealed no damage to tendons.
"That was a relief to me," said McDonald. "Everything was negative, no tears, nothing. So, we all have an agreement to get it over with, knock it our right now."
General manager Roland Hemond characterized the injury as "not serious" and said "it is better to control his work right now and get him well. He should be fine, but we have to give him time to get well."
McDonald tried to pitch through the problem after returning the first time from the disabled list. But he had difficulty loosening up for starts, which brought mixed results (three good, four poor).
"The Oriole organization is counting a lot on Ben McDonald," said manager John Oates. "The doctors suggested we shut him down completely. They said maybe he'd be ready in 10 days, so we just decided to erase the maybe."
Oates conceded that perhaps the team "did try to push him a little bit from the first time rather than let him go slowly. We wanted him to pitch so badly."
McDonald was originally hurt during his final spring training start and spent the first 10 days of the regular season on the disabled list.
"Al Jackson [pitching coach] noticed during his last start that he wasn't getting over the front like normally and everything was up," said Oates. "He didn't have the velocity on his fastball."
McDonald's next scheduled turn will be taken by Bob Milacki Monday against the Cleveland Indians. If Milacki pitches well, he will probably remain in he rotation.
"I thought it was something I had to work through," said McDonald. "The first time you go through it you don't really know what to think.
"I was hoping to miss one start, but the doctor said there wasn't a chance of this healing up that fast. So, I'll probably go out and vTC start throwing again in about a week."
Smith has been Rochester's most consistent starter with a 4-2 record and 2.60 ERA in eight starts. He has struck out 31, walked 12 and allowed 34 hits in 52 innings.