Injury reprieve lessens O's pain Hammonds doesn't need knee surgery

August 18, 1996|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The sense of relief was written all over Jeffrey Hammonds' face. Doctors found no significant ligament damage in his sprained left knee, meaning the Orioles left fielder probably will be able to play again this year.

"I didn't know what to expect," Hammonds said. "I just knew that I didn't want to get cut on again. I'm happy. I didn't want to go down that road again."

Hammonds has been there before. He had reconstructive surgery on his right knee in October of 1994. Since then, he has been fighting to establish himself as a healthy, dependable player, but fate intervened again on Thursday night, when he sprained his knee trying to make a sliding catch in left field.

"I haven't seen the highlight, but I felt it before I went into the slide," Hammonds said. "It didn't give out. I felt it buckle. I'd like to say that I had a real thought going through my head like 'Here we go again,' but I was just cussing the pain. It was nothing that made sense."

He had the sense that he had gotten his foot caught on something, though he stopped short of blaming the injury on the poor turf at the Oakland Coliseum. The outfield has been in horrible condition ever since the Oakland Raiders played an NFL exhibition game against the Seattle Seahawks here 10 days ago, and the Athletics lost outfielder Jason Giambi temporarily when he sprained his knee stumbling over a deep divot.

"I've played on better surfaces," Hammonds said. "I'm not going to say that it was definitely the cause, but the playing surface is horrible. I'm not going to say that's the reason it happened, but I can't rule it out either."

Hammonds was worried, but he said he never really thought he had suffered a severe ligament tear. The knee swelled, but not nearly to the extent that his right knee did when he originally tore the anterior cruciate ligament.

"I remember what that was like," he said. "It blew right up. I pulled up my pants leg in the outfield [Thursday] to look. It was swollen, but it wasn't way out there. I wasn't too worried, because you know when you blow an ACL."

The Orioles announced on Friday that even in a best-case scenario, Hammonds would be out of action four to six weeks. That still is the official outlook, though Hammonds seemed hopeful he could be back sooner.

"I'm not very good with timetables," he said. "They're saying four to six, I'm saying that they put me on the 15-day DL and that's what I'm shooting for. Four to six weeks. . . . That's too long. They're having too much fun here to be out that long."

No doubt, manager Davey Johnson will play it very conservatively with Hammonds, who is expected to be a big part of their future.

Pub Date: 8/18/96

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