O's reach early checkup point Hammonds, Mussina, Olson see doc today

November 05, 1993|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

Gregg Olson is the most significant of three key Orioles scheduled for physical examinations today. But it is unlikely the club will know much more about his condition than it did a month ago.

Dr. Charles Silberstein, the team's orthopedic specialist, also will examine starting pitcher Mike Mussina and outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds today. All three players were sidelined at the end of the season and their condition could influence whatever moves the Orioles decide to make during the off-season.

Olson's situation is the most complex, though there is a chance that Hammonds' injury is more serious than first thought.

The gifted rookie suffered through most of 1993 with a herniated disk in his neck.

Mussina had shoulder and back miseries throughout the second half of the season, some of which can be attributed to his participation in the June 6 brawl with the Seattle Mariners.

At this point the Orioles are hoping Olson, Hammonds and Mussina can avoid surgery.

Two days ago, Silberstein examined Harold Baines, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery last month. The veteran designated hitter, who has filed for free agency but is expected to return, got as clean a bill of health as could be expected.

"They [the medical staff] are pleased with Harold's progress," said general manager Roland Hemond, who returns tonight from the GMs' meeting in Florida. "He is on schedule and will be ready for next season."

Baines, 34, has a long history of knee problems, and his most recent surgery was primarily a cleaning out process. It is not expected to hamper his preparations for spring training.

Olson's case is complicated because he has just completed a two-year contract (which paid $2.3 million last season), is eligible for arbitration and is one year away from possible free agency. His condition is certain to affect contract negotiations.

The Orioles have until Dec. 20, when contracts are tendered, to ** determine how they will approach negotiations. Hemond said that is not a priority at this point, but the club probably will have to proceed without any assurances before spring training.

Olson's recovery program does not include any throwing until January, the normal start-up time for pitchers. The Orioles are hoping that today's examinations will reveal improvement for all three players, but Olson said he doesn't know what to expect.

"I have no idea," he said. "I'm just going to go in and see what he [Silberstein] says."

Hemond doesn't expect to get any results from the various tests on Olson, Mussina and Hammonds until early next week. Except for Mussina, who is expected to fully recover with rest, the tests are unlikely to be conclusive.

The last resort for Olson and Hammonds would be surgery that would rule them out for 1994. It is an option all parties are eager to avoid.

"We're 80 percent sure surgery won't be required," said Jeff Moorad, Olson's California-based agent who also represents Hammonds. "At the end of the season, even though he wasn't used, Gregg was ready and he was very encouraged by his progress. Luckily he was shut down in time.

"Our view is that the problem with the elbow was a bump in the road. He expects to report [to spring training] healthy and ready to pitch.

"At this point, Gregg is taking every step in his power to overcome the partial [ligament] tear in his elbow. He and I are confident this injury will not be a problem in the future."

It is, however, likely to play a prominent role when it comes to contract negotiations. Hemond and Moorad have talked by phone, but only to discuss Olson's health, not salary.

"We haven't discussed it [negotiations] at all," said Hemond. "Our goal is to get him well. The approach we'll take is that with sufficient rest, we're hoping that he will be fine."

When it comes time to talk dollars, the Orioles have three options. They can negotiate a contract with clauses protecting them from the elbow injury (but not from any unrelated injuries) and laced with incentives; go to arbitration, where injuries are considered along with past performance and service time; or they could decide not to offer Olson a contract, hoping they could negotiate a lesser deal with him as a free agent.

Not tendering a contract obviously represents the biggest gamble. Arbitration provides only a one-year contract that is not guaranteed, which could produce a greater risk for the player.

The issue could become thorny if the two sides disagree on the probability of Olson's availability. In the meantime, the Orioles have six weeks to monitor Olson's progress and determine the course they want to take in negotiations.

O'S INJURY UPDATE

DH Harold Baines (chronically bad knees) -- His condition should the same as last year, when plans to use him part time in the outfield were scuttled.

P Mike Mussina (strained shoulder and back) -- He is expected to be 100 percent for spring training. The worst-case scenario is that last season's injuries could periodically resurface.

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