Catching duo pairs up in pain, production Hoiles, Webster hurting, but damaging foes, too

Sidelight

September 03, 1997|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

MIAMI -- As Chris Hoiles walks through the visitor's clubhouse at Pro Player Stadium on his way to the trainer's room, he drags along a right ankle wrapped so thick it resembles a fire hydrant. A few hours later, he'll settle behind home plate, ignoring the pain for the sake of the game.

The day before, Lenny Webster assumed the position despite a strained left shoulder and a left Achilles' tendon that bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks said bothers him "more than he wants to admit."

"They've both been going through hell this year," Hendricks said.

But they keep going out there.

Hoiles made his 71st start last night, 11 more than Webster, who is playing more than at any time during his previous five full seasons in the major leagues. With a double last night, Hoiles has a hit in 10 of his last 14 games, batting .326 during that span. He had three hits on Saturday, including a home run -- the same output that Webster gave the Orioles on Monday.

"As long as they're productive, they're fine," Hendricks said. "If one is hot and the other isn't, you go with the hot hand."

Manager Davey Johnson often has been reduced to going with the healthiest body. He lost Hoiles for more than a month with a slight ligament tear in his right knee. Webster batted .316 while Hoiles was out even though the sore Achilles' left him hobbling.

They have combined for 17 homers and 79 RBIs. Hoiles is batting .269, five points higher than Webster. And little separates them in the area of health, too.

Webster's shoulder has been so bothersome that he might need surgery after the season. Hoiles' right Achilles' is so tender at times that he forgets about the knee.

"I put a little heat on my ankle and it feels pretty good," Hoiles said. "Sometimes, I go through the whole game and it doesn't bother me at all."

Sometimes.

Hoiles said the knee "still has its days, too," and hopes the two injuries don't flare up on the same day. Either way, he's grateful for having Webster to ease his pain.

"Before, I didn't say anything about it, but I was playing pretty much every day of the week, even day games after night games," Hoiles said. "It's good to have a guy they have confidence in, who's had a great year for us. As a combo, I think we've both had great years."

Not in all areas. As if the two catchers don't have it hard enough these days, teams have been running on the Orioles more frequently of late.

Hoiles has thrown out 10 of 67 runners, Webster 18 of 67. As in years past, the pitchers don't always give them a fighting chance, though they've improved after intense sessions in spring training designed to hold runners better. Other times, the injuries are to blame, especially Hoiles' ankle, which he needs to be strong enough to allow him to plant.

Hendricks says Hoiles' problems with throwing out runners date back to the shoulder trouble of two years ago.

"He's still not throwing the way I know he can throw," Hendricks said. "I think, with him, it's just being a little timid, afraid of reinjuring his shoulder again. He has to just block all of that out and go. Just say 'the heck with it. If it hurts, it hurts.' He's gotten into some bad habits."

Hoiles said the shoulder hasn't hurt in more than a year and no longer worries him.

"To me, as far as throwing-wise, it's just more of a mechanical thing than it is arm strength or arm pain," he said. "It's something I'm working on as of right now. But when you miss six weeks of the season and try to come back, there are some things that are messed up there. Everybody thinks it's about batting. Nobody thinks about the defensive side of it."

Johnson thinks about the conditions of Hoiles and Webster each day before writing his lineup. He knows they both could use a break, but is reluctant to dip into the minor-league pool as long as Bowie's Jim Foster and Rochester's Tim Laker and B. J. Waszgis are in the playoffs. One of them eventually will join the Orioles, though he won't make a significant dent in Hoiles' and Webster's playing time.

They've come too far, been through too much, to surrender now.

"The whole key to all of this is winning," Hendricks said. "Producing."

No matter how much both players are hurting.

Pub Date: 9/03/97

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