Poole learns his lesson: Rest can be a bad thing Pitcher won't take winter off again

January 05, 1993|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

Jim Poole didn't have to wait until New Year's Day to make a resolution. It was about this time a year ago that he realized a change would have to be made for 1993.

When he showed up for the Orioles' first day of informal off-season workouts yesterday, it created a flashback to last year. The left-hander had felt the timing was right to make a change in his preparation for spring training.

Instead of a winter tuneup, Poole gave his arm what he thought was a needed rest. It turned out to be a disastrous choice.

"It turned out that, by far, the worst thing I could have done was take three months off," he said after yesterday's initial session in the pitching tunnel at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. "And the second worst thing I could have done was to throw for three straight days after a three-month layoff.

"My arm wasn't prepared to handle that, and I threw my shoulder right into a case of tendinitis," said Poole. After going 3-2 with a 2.00 ERA in 24 games over the last two months after his promotion from Triple-A Rochester in 1991, the reliever had some scary experiences last season.

"Sure, there were times when I worried what would happen," said Poole. "I was afraid I was going to have to use my [Georgia Tech] engineering degree a lot sooner than I had planned.

"When I still wasn't throwing without pain in June, I worried that major surgery might be necessary.It's a fear every pitcher has to live with, I guess."

During his rehabilitation period, and eventual assignment back to Rochester, Poole's minor-league numbers hardly indicated a return to health. He was a combined 1-7, with a 4.72 ERA at Double-A Hagerstown and Rochester.

But he was pain-free during the last two months, and by the time he made his first major-league appearance of the year, in September, he had convinced the Orioles his arm had regained its strength.

"I still wasn't where I wanted to be with my breaking ball," said Poole, "but I had been throwing without pain for two months and my arm strength was back."

But it had been a lost season, and nobody realized it more than Poole. "At the time [last winter], after throwing year-round for four years, I felt the best thing for my arm was rest," he said. "Now I know different."

Once the 1992 season was history, Poole wasted no time getting his off-season program under way. "I started two days after the season ended [Oct. 6]," he said, "and only once have I gone five days without throwing."

* Poole and Gregg Olson were the only pitchers on the Orioles roster who took part in yesterday's workout.

Mark Williamson and Mike Flanagan, who were not tendered contracts after last season but are hoping to return, also participated.

Catcher Chris Hoiles and infielders Harold Reynolds, who signed as a free agent last month, and Steve Scarsone took advantage of the indoor batting facilities to start their spring training preparations.

The number of those working out is expected to increase later in the week as players return to Baltimore after the holidays.

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