Herniated disk in neck puts Hammonds on DL Buford is recalled from Rochester

August 11, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

DETROIT -- The Orioles placed rookie outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds on the 15-day disabled list yesterday after Los Angeles back specialist Dr. Robert Watkins confirmed that he is suffering from a herniated disk in his neck.

Hammonds has been hampered throughout the season with shoulder and upper back soreness, which Orioles orthopedist Dr. Charles Silberstein traced to a nerve irritation caused by a bulging disk. Watkins, who is one of the most respected back specialists in sports medicine, confirmed that diagnosis after putting Hammonds through a series of tests yesterday at Centinela Hospital in Inglewood, Calif.

That left the Orioles with no alternative but to put last year's No. 1 draft choice (and one of this year's major-league rookie phenoms) on the DL. Rookie outfielder Damon Buford was recalled from the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings roster to take Hammonds' place.

The Orioles had hoped to keep Hammonds on the active roster for use as a pinch hitter and pinch runner, but he instead has been told to remain inactive for 10 to 14 days. He's expected to rejoin the club today in Detroit and embark on a rehabilitation regimen that includes treatment, medication and a weight program.

"He should be able to play the rest of the season," manager Johnny Oates said, putting extra emphasis on the word "should."

No one wanted to say it, but there also is the possibility that Hammonds will be out of action even longer -- perhaps for the remainder of the season. There also was no word on whether postseason surgery was an option being considered.

This has to be a disturbing development for the Orioles, who were getting solid run-production help from their top outfield prospect. Hammonds has a .323 batting average and 19 RBI in just 29 games since he was called up in late June to fill in for Brady Anderson.

Oates obviously wanted to minimize the loss of speed. The club could have brought up a pitcher to flesh out the bullpen or recalled Paul Carey to give David Segui some backup at first base, but Oates asked for Buford to keep an extra pinch runner on the bench for the late innings.

"I tried to decide what I needed more, insurance pitching-wise or pinch running," Oates said. "You have to sit down and make a decision. It's six of one and a half-dozen of another. If we play an 18-inning game tonight, I made the wrong decision."

Carey could show up later. Segui still has a three-day suspension pending for his role in the June 6 brawl between the Orioles and the Seattle Mariners. He appealed the disciplinary action, and probably will have a hearing with American League president Bobby Brown when the Orioles visit New York this weekend.

Chances are, the suspension will be upheld and Segui will be forced to serve it during the three-day series against Seattle. Carey could be recalled at that point, but Oates seems comfortable using utility man Jack Voigt at first base for a few days if necessary.

Oates expressed concern Monday that his bullpen might be short-handed after a series of short outings from the starting rotation, but the situation became less critical when left-hander Arthur Rhodes gave the relievers a breather with an eight-inning performance on Monday night. However, three relievers were used in last night's 15-1 loss.

If the Orioles had needed extensive relief help in the series opener, the move might have been different. Minor-league pitchers Kevin McGehee and Mike Oquist were the most likely candidates for a temporary promotion.

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