McDonald ready to start Tuesday

SIDELIGHT

June 05, 1994|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Sun Staff Writer

Less than 1 1/2 hours before game time last night, Orioles manager Johnny Oates was fretting over an outbreak of minor injuries and still trying to assemble his lineup.

That was the bad news. Oates had already received the day's good news.

After undergoing a series of fielding drills and another stint of throwing in the bullpen, Ben McDonald had pronounced himself ready for his next scheduled start Tuesday night at Kansas City.

McDonald will be back in the rotation after missing only one turn because of a strained groin. That start went to Double-A pitcher Scott Klingenbeck, who tamed the slugging Detroit Tigers in an 11-5 victory Thursday.

"It's on go. I'm going to go get them," said McDonald, who last pitched May 28 at Chicago, but had to leave the game because of the injury after 2 2/3 ineffective innings (four hits, three runs).

"The last couple of days, I haven't felt anything in the area. Every day it gets better."

Oates said McDonald "did well" during his infield workout designed to test the pitcher's "quick movements on and off the mound and ability to field bunts. We tried to judge anything [motion] that could surprise the groin area."

McDonald had made 80 consecutive starts dating back to 1991 and said during that span that "there was some thought here and there" about missing one "but nothing real serious. It's amazing what you can overcome when the adrenaline is going."

It was the first time he had experienced a groin injury playing baseball, and he wanted to be careful not to compensate for the problem and risk injury to his arm.

"You don't want to be in a situation as a pitcher where you're not able to follow through," he said. "If I had been a position player, I might have been able to play through it by wrapping it up real tight, but not as a pitcher."

The infield drills included running from one side to the other and bounding off the mound to stretch the muscles. Then McDonald went to the bullpen, where he had "great stuff" during a 15-minute session.

"Hopefully, this [brief hiatus] will make me stronger, catch up my arm strength," he said.

McDonald first felt the strain during his May 23 start at Milwaukee, but persevered through 6 2/3 innings, allowing eight hits and three runs (two earned) to gain his eighth victory after two straight losses.

"If I knew then what I know now, I probably wouldn't have gone out for the Chicago start," he said. "The pain was causing me to change my mechanics, and you don't want to get them fouled up. "This is the kind of injury that kept [Roger] Clemens out a good while."

McDonald's return will probably mean a roster change, since it would give the Orioles 12 able-bodied pitchers, but Oates indicated the Orioles will wait until after today's game to make a decision.

Whether he returns to Double-A Bowie (or perhaps joins Triple-A Rochester) may depend on the outcome of Mike Oquist's start today against the Chicago White Sox.

With Jeffrey Hammonds disabled and Rafael Palmeiro's toe ailing, Oates is short-handed on the bench, so carrying 12 pitchers would be a luxury.

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