What happens when a headstrong veteran center fielder begins the season with a chipped bone in his left hand, suffers a painful strained shoulder that affects his hitting and then backs up the problem by failing to produce?
If the team is the Orioles and the player is Brady Anderson, two weeks of intrigue pass with no one willing to take charge of a situation that may worsen considerably before a decision is finally made Monday to disable the player. Whether manager Ray Miller's enforcement of an organizational call came too late is unclear. If so, Anderson's failure to fully disclose his condition to the team's trainers created a predicament that smeared everyone involved.
More obvious is the double standard employed with a popular player who previously played on despite being diagnosed with appendicitis, a cracked rib, stretched knee tendons and a pulled lower abdominal muscle.
"Brady's a tough read," Miller said Friday. "He doesn't like to talk about his injuries and he's been able to play through them in the past. Because of that, you're more prone to wait and see."
The Orioles waited and they saw. Anderson will finish the month in a 4-for-52 (.077) hole that included one extra-base hit and a .234 on-base percentage.
"If anyone should take the blame for the situation, it should be me," said Anderson, diagnosed with a strain of the sternoclavicular joint and a muscle strain in his right neck and trapezius area.
By playing for more than two weeks after his initial injury, Anderson may have aggravated the condition. Miller said he heard the player scream during several swings last weekend in Texas. Anderson concedes he may not be ready when eligible to leave the disabled list May 5. Had the club acted on its first suspicion, Anderson might have been exiting the list on the same day he went on.
Anderson suffered the sternoclavicular injury while batting April 4. The injury was enough to keep him out of the next day's game as well as the starting lineup April 7 in Kansas City. With an off day scheduled for April 8, Miller employed Anderson as a pinch runner in the eighth inning with an 11-7 lead. Had he resisted, the club could have disabled Anderson retroactive to April 5. HTC Instead, an advertised test of Anderson's shoulder on a scheduled off day lost any meaning. Miller now regrets the move.
Anderson insisted that no matter how bad the shoulder injury, he could still run, play defense and hit to left field. But with the loss of strength in his shoulder, he also suffered loss of bat control. Instead of driving balls to the opposite field, he consistently rolled grounders to the right side.
Anderson left Texas riding an 0-for-15 skid. The situation culminated in Anaheim last Monday with several contentious meetings between Miller and the outfielder. Having seen enough, Miller wanted Anderson to go on the disabled list. (A player must consent to go on the DL.) Anderson at first resisted. With the pending promotion of left-hander Doug Johns from Rochester, the club's alternatives were releasing backup infielder Ozzie Guillen, optioning Jeffrey Hammonds or returning Sidney Ponson to Rochester, which would have left them with 11 pitchers.
General manager Pat Gillick and assistant general manager Kevin Malone adamantly opposed Guillen's release. Eric Davis already had openly questioned Miller's failure to rotate Anderson out of the lineup.
"We are not releasing anyone," Gillick insisted Monday.
Anderson is a tough guy who can chew on pain, having not not gone on the disabled list since 1993 when he had chickenpox.
Manager Davey Johnson wanted him to begin last season on the DL after he cracked a rib during an exhibition in late March. Anderson refused, then batted .380 for April. He slammed 50 home runs in 1996 despite being diagnosed with appendicitis in July and enduring hamstring and calf injuries throughout the year.
"They told me I had appendicitis and I played through that. They told me I had a cracked rib and I played through that. They told me I had a cracked bone in my hand -- I've still got that -- and I played through that," Anderson said. "I thought I could get through this, too."
But this was an injury suffered while hitting. Hitting more would hardly seem therapeutic, especially with six months left in a season pointed toward October rather than the second week in April.
Pub Date: 4/26/98