It's catch-up time for nearly mended Hoiles, Tackett Orioles backstops get late conditioning start because of injuries

January 20, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

The baseball world is full of unforeseen circumstances. Chris Hoiles was on his way to a breakthrough season when an allegedly illegal pitch cracked a bone in his right wrist last June. Jeff Tackett was on his way home from a two-hour bicycle trip when he vaulted over the handlebars and broke his collarbone in November.

Both of them are taking part in winter workouts at Camden Yards and both are hoping to be ready to open spring training without any serious physical constraints, but the top two catchers on the Orioles' depth chart will need every bit of the next month -- and perhaps more -- to recover completely.

Hoiles thought his wrist was healed when he returned from the disabled list in August, but the renewed activity aggravated the injury and forced him onto an operating table in October. Doctors had to take a bone graft from his hip to repair the fracture. Then they permanently wired the wrist bone back together.

The pain is almost gone now, but Hoiles is just a week into an off-season conditioning program that normally would have begun in October. The cast came off in early December. He spent a month regaining the strength and range of motion in his wrist and forearm. He can swing a bat, but he still is in the early stages of his throwing regimen.

"Normally, I would have had two months of everything by now," Hoiles said, "but it was just one of those things that happened. As far as the wrist goes, I feel it will be 100 percent ready to go. As far as throwing is concerned, I haven't done much of that, so I don't know where I'll be.

"I don't want to push it. That's the worst thing I could do. If I tried to get everything done in four weeks, I think that would be foolish."

Tackett also faces some uncertainty, but he is up to speed on everything except swinging the bat. He snapped his left collarbone when his bike hit a pothole on a slope near his home in Cockeysville. If he had broken the right one, his chances of being ready for Opening Day might be far worse.

"I guess if something like this had to happen, it could have been a lot worse," Tackett said. "It happened to my left collarbone, so I'm already back doing everything but hitting. I didn't want it to happen, but if it did, it was one of the better bones to break. It could have been my right arm, or my elbow or my rotator cuff. And I'm glad it happened early. If it had happened in December or January, I might not be ready at all."

He is waiting for one more set of X-rays and final clearance from the Orioles medical staff to get back in the batting cage. But he is confident that he'll be ready for the normal routine when the pitchers and catchers report to Twin Lakes Park in Sarasota, Fla., for the opening of spring training Feb. 19.

"I feel confident that there's enough time," Tackett said. "Chris is getting back to normal. His wrist is fine. With me, it's just a matter of when I start swinging the bat. I may be a little bit behind, but I'm confident that I can make up for that with some extra hitting."

The Orioles are not particularly vulnerable behind the plate unless both of them are late getting back. Mark Parent has been re-signed to assure that the club has enough depth and experience at the position if either Hoiles or Tackett is unavailable. The club would have to dip into the minor-league system in a worst-case scenario.

No doubt, the club will be conservative with Hoiles, who missed nearly two months of the 1992 season and still hit 20 home runs. The emphasis will be on getting him ready for Opening Day, though he wants to be ready to play when the Orioles open the exhibition season on March 4.

"I'm not saying that I don't have a lot of work ahead of me," he said. "Throwing and hitting is going to take some time. I suppose with any type of injury, there can be setbacks, but right now, I feel fine. I'm not saying that something down the road can't affect it, but right now I'm planning on being 100 percent.

"Tack's going to be ready, too. He says everything feels great. He's a big, strong kid and so am I. We'll be ready for spring training and Opening Day."

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