Orioles outfielder Eric Davis has reached a critical juncture in his recovery from an abdominal abscess. Doctors plan to wean Davis from antibiotics today then watch what course the roughly inch mass inside him takes.
Should the abscess remain "sterilized" and not become aggravated, doctors believe Davis may be able to rejoin the team next weekend in Atlanta. If the inflammation and pain recur, doctors believe Davis will have to submit to surgery, which would necessitate his missing six to eight weeks or possibly longer. Davis has been against surgery and has taken pain medication only briefly since leaving the team May 27.
A CT scan administered yesterday showed little shrinkage in the mass. Doctors had hoped the abscess would liquefy, making its removal possible through a catheter. Instead, the mass has remained fibrous, leading to the possibility of Davis' actually playing without its removal.
Unless his condition deteriorates, surgery is seen as counterproductive, said Dr. William Goldiner, who has overseen Davis' case at the University of Maryland Medical Center.
"Clinically, he is doing fine," said Goldiner. "He feels good. He's eating good. The pain is gone."
However, doctors remain concerned that, once Davis stops receiving antibiotics, the same inflammation and pain that began in Cleveland May 24 could resurface.
Hence, Davis was not allowed to accompany the team to Chicago last night and will remain under periodic observation for the next several days.
Goldiner is still holding to an earlier prognosis that it is "less than 50-50" that Davis will need surgery. Goldiner says the 24 to 48 hours after Davis has stopped taking antibiotics should provide a strong clue about the eventual course.
Doctors are confident the abscess was caused by a small perforation in Davis' bowel. They are less sure how long the condition has existed and if it may have contributed to what appeared as acute flu symptoms in Minneapolis April 29 to May 1. In that case, Davis was administered antibiotics and his condition improved.
For the first time this season, there is concern over the bullpen, which blew only its fourth save in 31 opportunities in losing Mike Mussina's 5-0 lead Wednesday.
Left-handed middleman Arthur Rhodes is waiting for his first appearance since May 25, and Terry Mathews did nothing Wednesday night to allay worries over his recent lack of effectiveness.
Rhodes warmed during the Orioles' 9-7 win over the New York Yankees, but sat down when a run of right-handed hitters appeared. Mathews failed to retire either of the two hitters faced, walking Mark Whiten with the bases loaded to force in a run and allowing a single during the Yankees' five-run seventh inning. Both runners eventually scored, bumping Mathews' ERA to 4.95.
In his past three outings, Mathews has walked home three runs and allowed a fourth on a wild pitch.
"He's the most important guy we've got," said closer Randy Myers. "He can close, set up or go long. We need him to stay intact."