Sore throwing arm benches Webster Catcher hopes medication, 3-4 days off will aid elbow

Oriole Notebook

March 25, 1998|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The inflammation in Lenny Webster's right elbow will keep the Orioles catcher from throwing for at least three to four days and makes his availability for the season opener next Tuesday less certain.

Webster, who is taking medication to reduce the inflammation, said the condition dates back to the final week of last season, during a series in Milwaukee that preceded the playoffs.

He said the elbow felt pretty good when he arrived in camp, but when he sailed a ball into center field before a March 11 game in Fort Myers, Webster experienced a "shocking sensation" that caused him to back off and minimize his throwing.

"After that period, it's just been a gradual thing that hasn't gotten better."

Doctors and trainer Richie Bancells advised manager Ray Miller to prohibit Webster from throwing to see if rest and the medication would alleviate the problem.

"It's sore and I haven't been feeling like I can really throw the ball the way I'm used to. I'm a little discouraged about it," Webster said. "Hopefully, this is the answer and with the time I'm given, the inflammation will break up and I'll be ready in a few days."

"He's able to play," Miller said, "but it's a little bit aggravating and the doctors think if he just shuts down for about four days, that would be plenty. I thought this would be a good time to do it. It doesn't feel bad except when he really extends it."

Webster appeared in a career-high 98 games last year, his first with the Orioles. He needed surgery after the season to repair a tear in his left shoulder, and the tightness he felt in camp caused him to alter his mechanics when throwing, as he had late in the year. Most likely, this led to the sore elbow.

"I wasn't able to get on top and really drive with that lead shoulder because it was in such bad shape. So what that did was cause me to use all arm to throw the ball, and that's where the problem started," he said.

"Everybody knows I hurt the elbow late in the year and was having problems with it right before the playoffs. They kept me out a couple days then and I felt a little better, but it still wasn't right. And everybody made a big deal about it in the playoffs."

Dr. James Andrews, who performed the surgery on Webster's shoulder in Birmingham, Ala., ran tests on the catcher's elbow over the winter and recommended rest and therapy.

Webster has played in 13 games this spring, batting .185 (5-for-27) with two RBIs. "It doesn't really affect me when I swing the bat. I'll take batting practice and maybe on one swing I might feel it," he said.

"It's just disappointing for me to have a setback so close to Opening Day. I'm very disappointed about that. The best thing for me to do is do what the doctors say and try to get myself healthy. If all goes well, I'll be there, but if I continue to have a problem, then I may need more time off. Nobody knows that. We'll just see when the time comes."

Greene waits in wings

If Webster is forced onto the disabled list, a possibility that Miller hasn't broached publicly, Charlie Greene would be the leading candidate to begin the season in Baltimore. He started yesterday, going 0-for-2 in the Orioles' 5-1 loss to the New York Mets.

Greene, 27, who's 0-for-12 this spring, was claimed off waivers last September and appeared in five games. A career .221 hitter in the minors, he has impressed Miller with his strong arm and ability to block pitches in the dirt. The manager also has been encouraged by some quality at-bats in the past week.

"I let him hit with the game on the line and he hit a rocket to the left-field wall. Last time up, he hit a bullet to the center fielder," Miller said.

Hitting coach Rick Down has been working with Greene, trying to move the catcher's hands away from his body at the plate.

"He's certainly strong enough," Miller said. "It's not like you're looking at a frail kid. I think the hitting part might be as much mental as it is anything else. But I'll tell you what, he can catch and throw with anybody. Probably the only person I've ever seen block the ball as consistently well is [Chris] Hoiles.

"I just figure, what do you pay for a kid who can catch and throw? How much is that guy worth? It would behoove us, I believe, to do everything possible to try to help him out offensively because if he can hit .250 at the big-league level, you've got a heck of a catcher."

Long look for Minor

Infielder Ryan Minor, who's likely to begin the year at Double-A Bowie, has logged 96 innings this spring, including two yesterday after replacing Cal Ripken at third base. It's not the typical workload of a player just removed from the lower Single-A level.

"I told him, 'No kid who ever played A-ball last year got this good a shot. I hope you appreciate it,' " Miller said.

Minor is batting .341 (14-for-41) with three doubles, a triple, two home runs and six RBIs. He also has struck out 11 times -- he was caught looking to end yesterday's game -- and committed his fourth error.

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