Mills pushes self, O's into painful corner Stubborn reliever aggravates injury, leaves bullpen short

September 25, 1996|By Jason LaCanfora | Jason LaCanfora,SUN STAFF

BOSTON -- Alan Mills is hurt, and the Orioles aren't sure when he'll be able to pitch again.

Mills aggravated his injured right groin muscle over the weekend trying to pitch through pain rather than taking a few days off, as the training staff suggested.

Mills was in obvious pain yesterday and was walking with a pronounced limp. He did not participate in pre-game workouts and said he doesn't know when he'll be available to pitch again.

Mills, 29, has a history of pushing himself through injuries. In spring training, the reliever tried to work back from shoulder surgery too soon and ended up on the disabled list.

"It wasn't bad enough not to pitch [until after Monday's game]," Mills said. "With a week left, you don't want to not pitch. I'm not putting no weight on it. We've got the best trainers in baseball. If I'd have listened to them from the beginning, it probably wouldn't be where it is now."

Mills has a loss, two blown saves and a 9.00 ERA in his last four outings. Because it is in his right leg, the pull affects the way he pushes off the mound.

Manager Davey Johnson said he understands the reliever's willingness to play with pain with the Orioles in a pennant race, but said he wished Mills would have alerted him to the severity of his injury.

"We all go out there hurt, but right now's not the time to do it," Johnson said. "We've all done it. I know I myself did as a player. I don't hold it against Alan. He wanted to pitch. I just had no idea he was going out there and gutting it out.

"That's the one guy that's been my workhorse. If anybody's been better than him around the league, I'd like to know who it is. Mariano [Rivera of the New York Yankees], maybe."

Scott Erickson, scheduled to start Friday, was available in the bullpen last night in Mills' absence.

Jesse Orosco, who left Monday's game with arm stiffness, said he could pitch to a batter or two last night, but added he could use some rest after pitching in three straight games.

In the absence of Mills and Orosco, Johnson last night used four other relievers, including rookie Nerio Rodriguez and the infrequently used Mike Milchin.

Johnson said Mills' injury also will necessitate more innings for Armando Benitez, who is coming off a serious elbow injury himself.

"Benitez has to step up his workload," Johnson said. "I haven't really stretched him out to a complete two innings but I think he's set up to do whatever we ask."

Pub Date: 9/25/96

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