Still sore, Cone will miss O's series Yanks ace cuts short test of ailing shoulder

September 03, 1997|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

PHILADELPHIA -- New York Yankees right-hander David Cone was sent home last night because of persistent soreness in his pitching shoulder and will not be available to pitch in the four-game series against the Orioles at Yankee Stadium that begins tomorrow.

Cone, who has been on the disabled list since Aug. 19 with shoulder tendinitis, pitched two simulated innings before last night's interleague game with the Philadelphia Phillies, but cut the workout short when the pain and stiffness returned. He is expected to receive a cortisone shot today to reduce the inflammation, and could be lost for another 10 days or more, possibly affecting the Sept. 11-14 series at Oriole Park.

"It takes three or four days to get past the inflammation from the shot, so if everything goes well, you possibly could be looking at 10 days," manager Joe Torre said. "We're not in any hurry. Sure, we want to win and we want to get to the postseason, but our No. 1 priority is David Cone's health."

Torre announced that struggling left-hander Kenny Rogers and spot starter Ramiro Mendoza would start in the upcoming series against the Orioles.

Former Orioles pitcher David Wells will start the opener, and left-hander Andy Pettitte will go Friday. The order in which Rogers and Mendoza will start this weekend has not been determined, but neither figures adequately to replace Cone, who is 12-6 with a 2.82 ERA this year and ranks among the league leaders in ERA, opposing batting average (.220) and strikeouts (215).

The loss of Cone could be a huge setback for the Yankees, who also have shelved embattled Japanese pitcher Hideki Irabu. Torre said yesterday that Irabu would not start again in "the near future," and conceded that his staff will enter the Orioles series as thin as it has been at any time this season.

"It's disappointing," Torre said. "You'd like to be at full strength all the time."

Owner George Steinbrenner was fuming after Irabu's performance here against the Phillies on Monday afternoon.

Irabu gave up five runs and nine hits in three innings of a 5-1 loss. He is 4-3 with a team-high 7.68 ERA in eight starts, allowing 33 earned runs, 55 hits and 12 home runs in 38 2/3 innings.

"I've got about seven dozen Hideki Irabu T-shirts I am giving to the Little Sisters of the Blind," Steinbrenner told the New York Post. "I wasn't impressed at all.

"He's been disappointing, no doubt about it. He's got to learn to pitch."

The Yankees entered the second game of the series at Veterans Stadium 6 1/2 games behind the Orioles in the American League East with 27 games to play.

They would have to win six or more of the eight head-to-head matchups to make a big dent in that divisional deficit, a difficult task that became even more unlikely with the loss of one of baseball's top pitchers.

Cone clearly was frustrated. He missed most of last year after undergoing surgery to remove an aneurysm from his pitching arm. This injury is not nearly so serious, but it has pushed him to the sidelines at the time of year when he is most effective.

He entered 1997 with a 51-14 career record in the final two months of the regular season.

"I just want to get back," Cone said. "I just want to try and get healthy 100 percent and get back to help. We'll just have to wait and see."

The Orioles and Yankees are scheduled to face each other eight times in 11 days beginning tomorrow, so Cone conceivably could return in time to pitch one of the games next weekend at Camden Yards.

"Certainly, it's a big series with Baltimore, and I'd like to pitch in it," Cone said, "but it's more important to be 100 percent."

O's vs. Yankees

Probable starters for the series in New York (Orioles starter listed first):

Tomorrow: Rick Krivda vs. David Wells

Friday: Jimmy Key vs. Andy Pettitte

Saturday: Scott Erickson vs. Ramiro Mendoza

Sunday: Mike Mussina vs. Kenny Rogers

Pub Date: 9/03/97

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