Regan puts spring in Hammonds' step

April 25, 1995|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,Sun Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA -- Even before Jeffrey Hammonds arrived at spring training with his surgically reconstructed right knee and accompanying brace, Orioles manager Phil Regan decided how he was going to deal with the right fielder.

Every day, he would watch Hammonds with an open mind, watch him run, watch him make turns, look for pain in his walk or his expressions. Then he would decide when and how much Hammonds would play, and tell him flat out. No debates.

Throughout training camp, it's gone this way. Regan dictates policy, Hammonds nods.

It's a system that has worked for both. Hammonds appreciates Regan's honesty, Regan appreciates the fact that Hammonds has worked hard in his rehabilitation -- and, most importantly -- is ready to play.

He is expected to be in the Orioles' Opening Day lineup tomorrow in Kansas City, less than seven months since his surgery.

Regan said: "I tell you what, [Hammonds] has handled the whole thing great. It can be tough for a ballplayer coming back from an injury, because he wants to get back on the field."

Hammonds said: "We've had very good lines of communication. He's been honest with me, and I totally respect that."

What Regan hasn't done is ask Hammonds how he felt every day. By doing that, Regan thought, he would be asking Hammonds to make the decisions that the manager should be making.

Regan wants to take that pressure off Hammonds, so he dictates.

Regan told Hammonds he wouldn't play in exhibitions until he'd been in camp for 10 days, just to be sure about the knee. He told Hammonds that he might play sparingly the first weekend of the regular season, when the Orioles play on artificial turf in Minnesota. On Sunday, he told Hammonds he probably will start the year batting ninth in the lineup, because he doesn't think Hammonds is running well enough yet to hit second.

"I want to see you run better," Regan told Hammonds.

Hammonds replied, smiling, "Who do you want me to race?"

He doesn't always offer such witticisms. On Saturday in Sarasota, Regan thought he detected a little pain in Hammonds' gait, and told him he was going to give him Sunday off.

"I think," Hammonds replied, "that would probably be a good idea."

Hammonds sat out last night's exhibition, as well, because the artificial surface in Veterans Stadium was a little slick from rain.

Hammonds wants to be in the lineup tomorrow, though. "That will be a personal triumph," Hammonds said. "That would mean a lot to me, personally."

Surgeons told Hammonds that the typical recovery time could be anywhere from six months to 10 months. What Hammonds decided was that he wasn't going to be typical. He made up his mind that he wanted to be ready for Opening Day.

Regan admits that he is surprised. He had been told that Hammonds could start working out at the end of March, and could be ready by late April. Maybe, but maybe not.

"The first thing for me was to be ready by Opening Day," Hammonds said.

The next question, he continued, is whether or not he'll stay healthy enough to remain in the lineup.

Regan will be the first to answer that question.

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