Anderson to play despite bone chip O's hand injury proves less serious than feared

March 28, 1998|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

JUPITER, Fla. -- An X-ray taken on Brady Anderson's left hand yesterday revealed a small bone chip, but Orioles officials are confident that he will be available on Opening Day. Manager Ray Miller even suggested that Anderson could play in today's exhibition game in Fort Lauderdale.

Anderson suffered the injury, to the fourth metacarpal, while diving into second base during Thursday's game against the Florida Marlins in Viera. The throw from Marlins catcher Charles Johnson struck Anderson in the hand, and the Orioles' center fielder headed to the visitor's clubhouse after taking third on the error, flinging his batting helmet in disgust before reaching the dugout.

Miller said Anderson didn't want to get the hand X-rayed, but was advised by trainer Richie Bancells to go to the hospital as a precaution.

"It's not near a joint or anything. Brady said he was fine this morning, so I'm sure he'll be all right," Miller said after the Orioles' 4-0 loss to the Montreal Expos.

"It's so insignificant, it's not the kind of thing you can do much about," said Bancells, who is treating the injury like a contusion. "The initial swelling wasn't related to the bone. He broke a blood vessel and they swell quickly and dissipate quickly. He feels good. He has good grip strength."

It was about this time last spring that Anderson fractured a bone in his left rib cage while diving back into first base, refused to go on the disabled list and began the regular season as the designated hitter. Playing through an assortment of nagging injuries, his home run total declined from 50 the previous year to 18.

Anderson, who is 12-for-60 with no home runs this spring, recently said he hoped to play in 162 games this season.

"He'll probably be in there every day. It's hard not to write Brady's name in," Miller said. "If he's healthy, he's got a shot. He said, 'I'm always dinged up, but I have my best days when I am.' Maybe if I need him to have a big day I ought to kick him in the shin."

Also yesterday, right-hander Scott Kamieniecki threw on the side for about 14 minutes and didn't report any problems with his back. Scratched from Tuesday's start in Fort Lauderdale because of spasms, he's scheduled to follow Doug Drabek in tomorrow's exhibition at Camden Yards.

Miller said he will flip-flop the two pitchers in the first week of the season. Drabek will move ahead as the No. 4 starter, with Kamieniecki dropping to fifth. Drabek, signed as a free agent over the winter, has allowed six earned runs and walked three in 23 innings. Kamieniecki, limited to 12 2/3 innings because of the spasms and high pitch counts, has a 9.24 ERA in four starts, walking nine.

"I just thought it was the right thing to do," Miller said. "Obviously, Doug has been pitching well. Kammy's only going to end up with like 14 innings instead of 20-plus. We'll start Doug on Sunday and bring in Kammy right behind him for a couple innings, and then he'll have five days before he starts. It just makes sense to give him the extra day."

Miller added that Kamieniecki may throw on the side twice in the days leading to his scheduled start on Saturday against Detroit at Camden Yards.

Kamieniecki had done some long tossing with pitching coach Mike Flanagan before Thursday's game in Viera. He threw all his pitches yesterday and said the pain is "pretty much gone."

"He did everything. He was wide open," Flanagan said. "I'm ready to go on the disabled list. That's how well he was throwing [Thursday]. He's come a long way. He's ready to go on the mound."

Drabek and Kamieniecki will move to the bullpen in the rotation's next turn because of days off April 6 and 8 separated by two games in Kansas City. Staff ace Mike Mussina could pitch four times in the first 13 games because of an additional day off April 13.

Miller further tipped his hand concerning the makeup of his 25-man roster when he referred to Drabek and Kamieniecki as "the seventh and eighth relievers. That'll cover the 12th pitcher." He then grinned and added, "If we do go with 11 pitchers."

Miller will try to separate Mussina and No. 2 starter Scott Erickson, leery of not getting enough innings from Jimmy Key, Drabek and Kamieniecki in succession and taxing his bullpen.

"Hopefully we can move Key or Kammy or somebody in between them," Miller said. "The only thinking there is, hopefully if Moose pitches well into a game and Erickson pitches well into a game, we've got the other three guys spread out a little bit and give the bullpen a break."

The Orioles are facing other health issues as Tuesday's opener approaches. Right fielder Eric Davis was limited to a ninth-inning at-bat yesterday because of stiffness in his lower back and legs. He hadn't played in two of the previous three games, the exception being Wednesday's three-inning stint in Viera.

Davis, who singled off Expos reliever Rick DeHart, has appeared in 19 games, batting .362 (17-for-47) with four homers and 16 RBIs.

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