FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Left fielder B. J. Surhoff will miss at least the next several days and could be limited for up to several weeks with minor ligament damage in his right ring finger, the Orioles disclosed yesterday.
Surhoff's absence leaves the game's oldest team with one-third of its projected starting lineup hampered by injury. Second baseman Roberto Alomar has yet to hit right-handed this spring after off-season shoulder surgery, and center fielder Brady Anderson is not fully recovered from a strained abdominal muscle and sore right knee that nagged him last October.
Surhoff, temporarily limited to shagging fly balls in the outfield, sustained the injury during the second inning of Saturday's exhibition opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Diving back to first base on an attempted pickoff, Surhoff jammed the finger against either the bag or the foot of first baseman Eric Karros. He left the game before his next at-bat. The pain worsened that night but X-rays Sunday proved negative.
A Monday examination by a Miami hand specialist disclosed an "avulsion fracture." Though there is no break in the finger, Surhoff had the ligament along the underside of the digit raise from the bone.
"It's really not that big a deal," said Surhoff. "It's a small thing that's going to keep me out, but it shouldn't be anything that lingers real long. It's kind of like having a sprained ankle. It's going to be sore for a little bit. For it to actually be fully healed is going to take a little while, but it won't be that long before I can play."
Manager Ray Miller yesterday described the condition as "1,000 percent better" than it was on Sunday, but gave every indication patience would be prescribed.
Surhoff said: "I'd much rather have it now than later. They told me it should take three weeks before it's fully healed, but that doesn't mean I have to wait that long."
However, because four weeks remain before Opening Day (March 31), Surhoff says there is no compulsion to rush his return. In the meantime, he will soak his right hand and perform exercises. The injury makes it as difficult for Surhoff to throw as it does to hit. Doctors fear any activity causing the finger to flex backward would aggravate the condition.
Regarding his timetable for returning, Surhoff said: "A lot depends on how you feel and how you feel like you're progressing, the amount of work you're getting and whether you feel like you're swinging the bat well."
Fortunately, Surhoff isn't among those who crave a huge number of exhibition at-bats. "He's paranoid about getting too many at-bats and spring games and all that stuff. So this will give B. J. the last two weeks of games, and it'll be just about right," said Miller, adding half-seriously, "You know B. J. He'll be ready before long. You'll have to sit on him. That'll probably become a problem."
One problem the graybeard Orioles need to avoid is injuries. With a roster dominated by veterans, they fear a repeat of last year's run on the training room. Though there's no reason to believe Alomar, Anderson or Surhoff won't be available when the games count, a recent series of nicks has become unsettling.
Reserve infielder Jeff Reboulet is expected to play today against the St. Louis Cardinals three days after being hit on the left elbow. Lenny Webster expects to catch today for the the first time. Webster underwent off-season arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder and experienced tightness last week. He pinch hit yesterday.
"It's going to happen because it's spring," Miller said. "This thing with B. J., this weakness with Webby at least it happened up front. If it happened later this spring then it would affect you."
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Pub Date: 3/04/98