Olson's return is weeks, maybe even months, away If O's remain out of race, so may he

September 01, 1993|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- If the Orioles are going to get back into the American League's Eastern Division race, they're going to have to do it without Gregg Olson.

Nobody is yet willing to write off the ace reliever for the rest of the season, but it's become obvious he won't be a factor for at least another few weeks. And logic suggests there is a real possibility Olson could be shut down if the Orioles aren't any closer to the lead in two weeks than they are today.

That is not a scenario Olson is willing to accept at this point. "We're pretty guarded about not pushing it too fast," he said after working out before last night's game against California. "We don't want to be doing something to make it go back."

Olson has been sidelined with what has been described as a possible small tear of a ligament in his elbow. He threw to hitters yesterday for the first time since Aug. 8, when he last appeared in a game. He threw to David Segui and Mark Parent for about 15 minutes, twice interrupting the session for consultation with pitching coach Dick Bosman.

Several times during those discussions he pointed to the forearm area inside his elbow and he talked briefly when he was finished with Bosman and trainer Richie Bancells. There did not appear to be much reason for optimism.

"It was his first time out there in awhile," Bosman said yesterday, "and there was some apprehension and a little tentativeness. We'll see how he feels [today] and if there's no real problem, we'll probably do this again Thursday."

Bosman admitted that Olson reported "some" discomfort, but the reliever later said it was "minimal."

Manager Johnny Oates, who watched the workout, would not speculate on when, or if, Olson would be available. "I have no idea when he's going to pitch," said Oates.

"He's not there yet. I think he threw good enough for batting practice, but he's got a couple of notches to go. The intensity level has to be turned up a bit, depending on what the arm allows.

"I thought he was throwing from his shoulder to protect his elbow," said Oates. "He'll throw again Thursday and we'll see how it goes."

Bosman indicated that mechanics might have been part of Olson's problem yesterday. "If everything is OK and he feels all right [today], we'll work on that Thursday."

Olson, 26, already has been out longer than anticipated, but he isn't willing to give up on the rest of the season. "I'm going to talk to Johnny and Boz and see what we're going to do, how we're going to proceed," he said.

Asked if he was discouraged, Olson said: "Not with [the workout] today. I haven't gone forward as fast as I would've liked, but I've taken a couple of steps."

There has been no thought of Olson returning to Baltimore before the Orioles conclude this road trip in Oakland on Sunday.

"This is the best place for me to work out," Olson said. "I've got to keep throwing enough to [be able] to get back in a game."

Although his absence has been only minimally significant during the recent slump, the Orioles cannot afford to be without Olson during the final weeks, when they go head to head with Boston, Detroit, New York and Toronto -- the teams ahead of them in the standings. His continued absence would continue to put pressure on the starters as well as the rest of the bullpen.

But how the club plays for the next two weeks may have as much bearing on Olson's return as his physical condition. If the Orioles have four teams ahead of them during the head-to-head competition, the number of games separating them from the lead becomes academic.

And unless the Orioles have a realistic hope of winning the division, the only reasons for getting Olson into a game would be for his, and their, peace of mind entering the off-season.

In any eventuality, Olson almost certainly is at least two weeks, and maybe longer, away from making a return.

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