Buford sent back to Rochester


May 21, 1994|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- The Orioles announced last night that outfielder Damon Buford had been optioned to Triple-A Rochester to accommodate left-hander Arthur Rhodes, who returns from the disabled list today to start against the New York Yankees.

By returning Buford to the minor leagues, manager Johnny Oates will go, at least temporarily, with 12 pitchers. "We'll see how it goes, what our needs are and how Arthur throws," said Oates.

Oates said he decided to keep Mark Smith over Buford because, "Smith is playing right now."

Buford's role had been restricted mostly to pinch-running, and he isn't likely to fill it any more this season. General manager Roland Hemond indicated Buford won't return to the big leagues until Rochester has completed its season.

"I want to see him just stay there and play. We'll find somebody else to [pinch] run next time. I'm tired of it," said Hemond, referring to Buford's bouncing between the minor leagues and big leagues, as he has done much of the past two years.

Sabo next off DL?

Third baseman Chris Sabo may come off the disabled list sooner than outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds.

Although indicating that he's continuing to make progress, Hammonds wouldn't speculate about a possible return. He appeared to be favoring his left knee while taking batting practice before last night's game against the Yankees.

"It's still a little gimpy, but it's not a 'hurt' gimpy," Hammonds said. "I ran hard on it yesterday [Thursday], and I'll do it again tomorrow [today]."

Oates said he had no idea when Hammonds would return.

"He hit early [yesterday] and said it was still a little sore," Oates said. "I'm not counting on him until he tells me he's ready to play."

Hammonds originally was sidelined by the aftereffects of a concussion suffered two weeks ago, then aggravated a knee originally injured while playing football in high school. The

absence of his .326 batting average has had a telling effect on the bottom part of the Orioles' lineup.

Sabo is in Florida, participating in the Orioles' extended minor-league, spring-training program. He batted twice as the designated hitter Thursday and reportedly ran the bases without difficulty.

Sabo was scheduled to play seven innings yesterday and nine today before the Orioles would consider making a move.

"We'll talk to him and see how he holds up," Oates said. "But we won't go just on his word -- we'll talk to the trainers and doctors."

Oates said it was "possible" Sabo could join the Orioles and be activated for tomorrow's game against the Yankees. But a more realistic timetable would call for his return sometime this week.

Key has blister on finger

Jimmy Key left his last start (Tuesday in Minnesota) after seven innings because of a blister on his index finger. It is not expected to keep him from starting against the Orioles tomorrow, when the left-hander is scheduled to face Mike Mussina.

If Key has to be moved back, right-hander Scott Kamieniecki would take his place. Because the Yankees had a day off Thursday, Kamieniecki was temporarily dropped from the rotation and is scheduled to work out of the bullpen for the next few days.

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