Hammonds' status undecided Manager not sure outfielder will go against R. Johnson

Orioles Notebook

September 28, 1997|By Joe Strauss and Roch Kubatko | Joe Strauss and Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

MILWAUKEE -- Manager Davey Johnson says he still hasn't decided upon his starting lineup for Wednesday night's Division Series opener against the Seattle Mariners because of numerous nagging injuries afflicting the club.

Johnson says he is unsure about Jeffrey Hammonds' status in left field. Hammonds, who started in left in each of Randy Johnson's three starts against the Orioles, has been bothered by a sore left Achilles' tendon for much of the second half. However, Hammonds says the condition won't prevent him from playing. "I'm ready to play," he said. "If you can't get ready for this, you've got a problem."

Hammonds hasn't spoken with Johnson about his condition and says he will not lobby him. However, he insists that the Achilles' tendon no longer prevents him from playing on consecutive days.

Hammonds homered off Randy Johnson on Aug. 15. His two RBIs were decisive in a 4-3 win. Yet Johnson has been noncommittal about whether Hammonds will again start over left-handed-hitting B. J. Surhoff. "I'll make those determinations when I have to have a lineup," said Johnson, adding he needs further time to evaluate players' health status.

"I can't give you a lineup right now because I don't have it. I can't give it to you," he said.

Hammonds said his condition won't completely heal until the off-season but declines to draw any correlation between it and his sagging numbers. Hammonds, who has hit only .183 since July 22, has been among those most affected since the June 29 and July 29 acquisitions of designated hitters Geronimo Berroa and Harold Baines. Hammonds entered last night in an 0-for-19 slide covering eight games and is 3-for-30 since Sept. 7. Hammonds has had only one multi-hit game since July 22, compared with 22 before. Hammonds' average has dropped from .300 to .265 in that span.

Hammonds has taken a cortisone injection near the Achilles' but decided to abstain from a second shot two weeks ago when the condition improved.

Johnson's options at first base include using catcher Chris Hoiles, outfielder Jerome Walton or utility player Aaron Ledesma in place of Rafael Palmeiro, who has not played against Randy Johnson this year.

Likewise, Johnson has said he will not send Roberto Alomar to bat left-handed against the Big Unit. Jeff Reboulet and Ledesma provide options there.

Walton tuning up

Another player Johnson continues to evaluate is Walton, a right-handed hitter who could be especially useful in the Division Series with Seattle starting left-handers Randy Johnson, Jamie Moyer and Jeff Fassero.

Walton didn't start last night, but lately has seen time in the outfield and at first base. Bothered most of the year by groin and hamstring injuries, Walton said he's feeling great and swinging the bat better than his 5-for-34 slump suggests.

"My timing at the plate is fine. I've been hitting the ball, I just haven't been able to get any hits," he said. "I feel like I'm running good. Like I've said all along, I wish I would have had time enough to get stronger, but other than that, I'm fine. I'd say I'm at least 90 percent. As soon as the season ends, I'm going back to therapy to get stronger and rehab, make sure I don't break down anymore."

Elbow bothering Webster

Catcher Lenny Webster didn't play last night because of a sore right elbow, ending a streak of 29 consecutive starts with Scott Erickson pitching.

Webster said the elbow has been bothering him for about two weeks, though he continued to play. He replaced Hoiles during Friday night's loss, and started Wednesday in Toronto when the Orioles clinched the AL East. There hasn't been any swelling, and Webster took batting practice.

"I just think it's from maybe throwing a lot and at times throwing improperly. Putting a strain on my elbow from having to rush sometimes to throw runners out. That probably contributed to it," he said.

Krivda disappointed

Pitcher Rick Krivda expressed regret yesterday that he didn't take better advantage of the opportunity to secure a place in the rotation next year.

"I have know one to blame but myself," he said.

Krivda (4-2) went five innings Friday night in his last start of the season, allowing four runs and eight hits in a 4-2 loss. He hadn't won since Sept. 9 in Cleveland, losing twice and getting a no-decision. He didn't go more than 6 1/3 innings in any start after being called up in late July from Triple-A Rochester, where he had gone 14-2.

"I guess I can look at my time here in a good way and bad way," he said. "I won another game more than I did last year, and two more than the year before. It's kind of a comical way of looking at it. But I still haven't pitched the way I know I'm capable of pitching. It's just usually one big inning that's hurt me."

The first inning was his undoing Friday. Milwaukee scored three times on four hits, and the Orioles never got closer than the final margin.

"It's not easy for a team to be put in a hole like that and then have to regroup," he said.

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