Pained Sabo brings up retirement

April 25, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

Full speed ahead always has been the only way Chris Sabo knows how to play baseball. And if he can't play that way, he isn't sure he wants to play at all.

Back soreness has tormented Sabo the past two weeks, causing him to miss three games and parts of two others. It has frustrated Sabo to the point he talked about the possibility of an early exit from the game.

"We'll see what happens," Sabo said. "If I can't play and be productive, what am I going to do, sit around collecting something for nothing? I don't think that's right either. I'm not going to waste anybody's time. If I can't contribute, it's not fair to anybody. It's not fair to the Orioles. They made an investment. I'm not going to take something for nothing."

The Orioles signed Sabo to a one-year, $2 million free-agent contract. Concerns over the long-term health of his back scared teams from offering him long-term contracts. He played 148 games for Cincinnati last season, despite spending 15 days on the disabled list with a herniated disk, a roster move the Reds made without his blessing.

"Hopefully, this will just be a couple week thing and it won't bother me the whole year and I can play a whole year again," Sabo said. "Maybe tomorrow everything will be good again. Who knows? I'm not God. I don't have the answer to my back. I wish I did. Every day I'll just try to get it ready."

Orioles general manager Roland Hemond said he did not fear Sabo would retire and indicated the remarks were just a reflection of Sabo's intense desire to play.

"He reminds me of Billy Ripken and Brian Downing," Hemond said. "They can't stand not being in there. He's just frustrated."

Sabo said his back gave him no trouble from May of last season until April 11 in Detroit, when he irritated it running from first to third. Every day since then, he said, it has hampered him, save for last Tuesday night's game against California at Camden Yards.

"That was the old me," Sabo said. "I was running around, sliding, diving for balls in the field. But what good is it if you can only do that once a month? What good is it if you can't bend over for a ground ball?"

Sabo came out of Friday night's game after seven innings and did not play Saturday or yesterday.

"I could go out there and play today, but if I can't do the things I'm capable of doing, who am I helping?" he said. "I'm sick and tired of walking around like an old man. I like to do stuff. It's no fun waking up every day feeling like a 100-year-old man."

Sabo, 32, said he was told his back had some arthritis, a condition he would have to battle the rest of his life.

"I just got back on the high-powered anti-inflammatory," Sabo said. "It takes a couple of days for that to get in your system. I'll see how it is in a couple of days. Maybe it will go away like it did last year.

"We'll just have to see. I'm doing everything right. I'm following the doctors' orders. The trainers are doing a hell of a job. I'm resting it, calming down the inflammation. Every time I've played I've given it everything I've got. We'll see how it is."

Baines, Devereaux rest strains

Center fielder Mike Devereaux and designated hitter Harold Baines rested their strained left groin muscles yesterday. Devereaux appears closer to a return than Baines.

Manager Johnny Oates had hoped to keep Baines' status a mystery in order to keep the threat of Baines pinch-hitting planted in the opposing manager's mind, but when Oates sent in Mark McLemore and not Baines to hit with the Orioles trailing by one in the ninth, it became obvious Baines wasn't available.

"It's sore," Baines said. "It's day-to-day."

McLemore sits vs. another lefty

For the second time in three days, Oates started Tim Hulett against a left-handed pitcher in place of McLemore at second base. Oates assured McLemore he was not a platoon player.

"He's got a feeling and he's got to go with it," McLemore said. "Just like he had a feeling last year when he put me in there. I don't have a problem with that. I'm sure it's not going to happen often."

McLemore said his right shoulder, which he jammed sliding last week, has recovered and was not a factor in Oates' lineup decision.

A first for Mariners

Ken Griffey's three-run homer off Orioles left-hander Brad Pennington improved the Mariners' record in games they trailed after six innings to 1-8.

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