Gomez set to shoulder his load

April 08, 1993|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Staff Writer

When Leo Gomez sat out his first winter-league season in five years, he had no trouble occupying the time he suddenly found on his hands.

There was the new home in Canovanas, Puerto Rico, that had to be decorated.

There was quality time with his wife, Lee, and son, Leo Jr., 3.

There were daily runs to keep his weight down.

And there were the arm exercises designed to rehabilitate his right shoulder, the one he partially dislocated diving back into second base in September.

The injury prematurely ended Gomez's first full season as the Orioles' third baseman. It also left him facing a critical decision: whether to correct the injury through surgery or exercise.

Surgery would have been extensive and likely would have kept him sidelined for at least half the 1993 season. Shoulder exercises similar to the ones pitchers do for rotator cuff problems quickly became the more attractive option.

Now the Orioles are hoping they solved the problem of a looser-than-normal shoulder capsule.

Gomez says they have, and the Orioles have fingers crossed.

"I feel like playing every day will be no problem," he said before last night's game against the Texas Rangers at Camden Yards.

Orioles infield coach Mike Ferraro, who worked with Gomez through spring training, says the third baseman is 100 percent healthy.

"He was real careful through spring training," Ferraro said. "He didn't extend his arm until two or three days before the [exhibition] games started."

After two errors in his first two exhibition games, Gomez's shoulder came around. Perhaps not surprisingly, he started slowly at bat, too. He brought a .191 batting average north after 19 spring games.

Ferraro, a former third baseman, worked with Gomez during the spring on positioning himself for his throws.

"We were trying to get him to field the ball to where his momentum was carrying him toward where he was throwing it," Ferraro said. "He had a tendency to catch the ball away from where he was throwing."

The result is that there should be less strain on Gomez's shoulder when making the long throw to first.

Last September's mishap was the second shoulder dislocation of Gomez's professional career. The first came at Rookie League Bluefield in his first pro season in 1986 -- when he was diving for a ball.

Last year's injury closed Gomez's season with 17 home runs, 64 RBI and a .265 batting average. His slugging percentage of .425 ranked third among American League third basemen.

"I was happy with the year I had last year," he said. "This year I want to do better. I want to help the team go to the World Series. We've got a good team and a good attitude."

The positive side of the injury was that he was able to break the winter-league grind.

"Playing here every day and then playing there every day was not easy," he said. "I felt I needed the rest. I'd only get two weeks off before spring training started. The only reason I did it was because I wanted to be in the big leagues and I wanted to get better."

ORIOLES TICKETS

Approximate number of tickets available for Orioles home games in the coming month:

.. ... .. Tickets

Date Opp. left

4/16 Cal. 8,000

4/17 Cal. 3,000

4/18 Cal. 3,000

4/20 Chi. 8,000

4/21 Chi. 9,000

4/28 Minn. 9,000

4/29 Minn. 9,000

4/30 K.C. 8,000

5/1 K.C. 8,000

5/2 K.C. 8,000

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