Sutcliffe may start for Mussina

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

MILWAUKEE -- Right-hander Rick Sutcliffe is expected to return to the starting rotation tomorrow night against the Cleveland Indians, taking the place of a still sore-shouldered Mike Mussina.

Manager Johnny Oates said yesterday that Sutcliffe was a "likely" starter for the second game of the series that begins tonight at Cleveland Stadium, though he left open the slight possibility that Mussina would bounce back in time to make the start.

"Sutcliffe will probably start," Oates said. "It's not definite, but it's likely."

Mussina worked out in the bullpen Saturday and continued to experience soreness in his right shoulder. The problem has been diagnosed as tendinitis, which probably will not subside entirely until he rests his arm over the off-season.

Still, the Orioles are holding out hope that he can bounce back enough to pitch again this season. He still has two other possible starting assignments left -- against the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays during the final week. Oates was not ready to look that far ahead, but it seems highly unlikely the club would force the issue if Mussina has not made an amazing recovery by that time.

Oates had seemed encouraged by the length of Mussina's workout Saturday evening, but it did not turn out quite as he had hoped. Mussina had favored his shoulder throughout a rocky 3 2/3 -inning performance on Wednesday in Boston and continued to experience the same soreness.

"When you go out to throw between starts, you don't expect it to be great," Mussina said, "but I couldn't get anything done."

Sutcliffe has been waiting for an opportunity to get back into the starting rotation, but this was not the kind of opportunity he was looking for.

"I'm like everybody else in Baltimore," Sutcliffe said. "I'm hoping Mike Mussina starts for us Tuesday night. I hope he's healthy and can go out there and pitch. If he's not, then obviously I'm going to go out there and do whatever I can do."

No one knows what that might be, since Sutcliffe has not thrown a competitive pitch in the nearly five weeks since he underwent surgery to remove torn cartilage from his left knee. He was 0-7 in his 10 starts leading up to the surgery, but was encouraged that the torn cartilage provided a possible explanation for his late-summer struggles.

He has bounced back very quickly from the surgery, and has been available to pitch out of the Orioles bullpen for the past week.

"How far he can go, we'll see," Oates said. "He hasn't pitched in awhile and he was not able to go on a rehabilitation assignment, so we'll just have to see how it goes."

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