Mercker gets, hopes to be shot in the arm Struggling lefty says cortisone helps fastball

Orioles Notebook

June 26, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Orioles left-hander Kent Mercker, who has suffered a mysterious loss in velocity this season, had a cortisone shot in his left shoulder Sunday. Throwing yesterday for the first time since his shot, Mercker said he had much more life on his fastball.

"The wonders of cortisone," Mercker said.

Mercker told the coaching staff his arm feels fine. But he said yesterday that he has some soreness.

During the weekend, Kansas City Royals right-hander Jeff Montgomery told Mercker how a shot of cortisone (used to reduce inflammation) helped him throw better.

"I figured it couldn't hurt," said Mercker. "I don't know about movement [on his fastball], but it feels pretty good."

Pitching coach Pat Dobson said Mercker, who has been demoted to the bullpen, probably won't be fully recovered from his shot until the Orioles begin a four-game series in New York tomorrow.

Tarasco shoulder not bad

Outfielder Tony Tarasco had arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder Monday and got some good news: There are no significant tears in his rotator cuff.

Tarasco, acquired from the Montreal Expos for Sherman Obando in March, had some minor corrections made to fraying in his shoulder, but club officials had feared that Tarasco might require major reconstructive surgery. He should be back next spring.

Johnson's youthful vision

Manager Davey Johnson talked at length about his vision for the Orioles' future, including a vastly diminished payroll and, in the near future, no more trades for high-priced, veteran players.

"Sometimes you have to take a step back to go forward," Johnson said. "I want to win, but I don't want to be spending any more money to get there."

So could the Orioles deal prospects to aid their run for a division title this year? "No possibility," Johnson said. "It won't happen. I'm not making the trades, but I just know Pat's thinking," he said of general manager Pat Gillick. For example, the Orioles won't be dealing prospects for a veteran catcher, such as Oakland's Terry Steinbach. Johnson said that if Chris Hoiles is too banged up to do the job, he'd rather give Gregg Zaun an opportunity.

"If we don't win it, we at least need to answer questions about some of our young players, instead of always thinking the grass is greener elsewhere," he said.

He said that last July, the news that the Orioles traded two young outfield prospects (Alex Ochoa and Damon Buford) for Bobby Bonilla disturbed him.

"Bobby's a good player, don't get me wrong," Johnson said. "But to me, you make the deal if you had six outfield prospects -- and then you give up two. I really don't think anyone can give up good young prospects to get over the hump, and be successful."

Alomar returns to 2-hole

Johnson juggled his lineup again last night, moving Roberto Alomar back to the second spot in the order and moving up the four hitters who regularly follow him.

The reason for the change, Johnson said, is because the other candidates for the No. 2 spot, from Luis Polonia to Mike Devereaux to Mark Smith to Jeffrey Hammonds, failed to get on enough.

There was little improvement last night. Alomar was 0-for-4, Devereaux, batting seventh, was 1-for-4, and Polonia, batting eighth, was 0-for-3, stretching his hitless streak to 18 at-bats. "The son of a gun [Polonia] just hasn't been getting the job done, and he's getting worse," Johnson said.

Around the horn

The Orioles, searching for outfield depth, may have some interest in outfielder Phil Plantier (.211, seven home runs), who has been designated for assignment by Oakland. . . . Shortstop Augie Ojeda, the Orioles' unsigned 13th-round draft pick, is a strong contender to start for the U.S. Olympic team. . . . Hoiles ranks next-to-last at throwing out base stealers among everyday catchers in the American League. Boston's Mike Stanley has thrown out nine of 62 (14.5 percent), and Hoiles has thrown out nine of 47 (19.1 percent). . . . Roger McDowell, coming back from a sore shoulder, threw extremely well in relief of Mike Mussina Monday night. "I'd rather not be that strong," McDowell said. "My sinker was up, and it's very well known that major-league hitters can hit a high sinker." . . . Alan Mills was equally effective last night, striking out three of the four batters he faced. . . . Bonilla has had a profound effect on whether opponents pitch to Rafael Palmeiro. Through May 31, Bonilla was struggling, and Palmeiro had 40 walks in 49 games. Since then, Bonilla has raised his average to .278, and Palmeiro has had six walks in his past 24 games.

Pub Date: 6/26/96

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