Sutcliffe finally opts for knee operation In pain for months, veteran vows to return this season

August 24, 1993|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,Staff Writer

Rick Sutcliffe realized the severity of his knee injury yesterday. Less than a day after resisting the possibility of major medical treatment for the problem, Sutcliffe confirmed he will have arthroscopic surgery on his left knee today.

"I didn't let the trainers look at it [during the season]," Sutcliffe said of the injury, which has bothered him for three months. "When I did go, I just said it was a little tender."

The Orioles placed Sutcliffe on the 15-day disabled list and recalled right-hander Kevin McGehee from Triple-A Rochester for middle relief.

Orioles orthopedic surgeon Charles E. Silberstein is scheduled to perform the surgery today at 4:30 p.m.

Sutcliffe will begin to throw again in two weeks, and could return to the Orioles in three weeks. He will begin throwing from a swivel chair to regain arm strength without putting pressure on the knee.

The 37-year-old right-hander vows to return this year.

"I'm gonna come back this year," said an upbeat Sutcliffe. "Whatever I have left, I'll give it to these guys. If it is just three weeks at the end, I'll give it here. These guys gave me an opportunity when everybody else gave up on me. That guy in the office [manager Johnny Oates] had more faith in me than anybody."

Oates caught Sutcliffe when both were teammates with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1979. Oates was also a coach for the Chicago Cubs from 1984-87; Sutcliffe pitched for the Cubs from 1984-89.

Oates removed Sutcliffe (9-9, 5.67 ERA) from the starting rotation last Friday, after he had lost seven of his previous eight decisions. On Sunday, making his first relief appearance since 1991, he allowed four runs on five hits through 2 1/3 innings.

"When he pitched, I think he subconsciously would release the ball early," Oates said. "But Sutcliffe is not going to use that as an excuse."

Trying to avoid surgery, Sutcliffe tried different arm angles and ball grips, but the pain did not go away.

Last year, Sutcliffe was tied for the major-league lead with a career-best 36 starts. That was the first season he pitched more than 200 innings since 1989.

This will be Sutcliffe's first time on the disabled list as an Oriole. He was placed on the disabled list three times in his last two years with the Chicago Cubs because of problems with his right shoulder.

General manager Roland Hemond said he expected Sutcliffe to try to return as soon as possible. "I think he will be pitching sometime in September," Hemond said.

McGehee, who was notified of his promotion at 10:30 p.m. Sunday, never has played above the Triple-A level.

"You don't have the same time for mental preparation as a reliever. I'm used to knowing four days ahead that I'm going to pitch," said McGehee, a starter at Rochester, where he led the International League with a 2.96 ERA. "There was a rumor that there was going to be a move, but I didn't think it was going to be me."

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