The Orioles placed Terry Mathews on the 15-day disabled list yesterday with stiffness in his right shoulder, a move designed to clear room for ace Mike Mussina and provide the reliever with the rehabilitation assignment he missed last time.
Then, after yesterday's 10-5 loss to the Atlanta Braves, the club announced that outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds also was going on the DL because of muscle spasms in his back. His place will be taken by switch-hitting Triple-A outfielder Jesus Tavarez, who impressed manager Ray Miller during spring training and has batted .317 with 11 stolen bases over his last 20 games.
Desperate for pitching help, the Orioles rushed Mathews back from the DL on May 26 after a month's layoff because of inflammation in his wrist, rather than following through on their plan to ease his return with some innings in the minor leagues. He pitched three nights later, retiring the only batter he faced on a double-play ball. He's appeared in two other games since then, allowing one run and three hits in 1 1/3 innings.
Mathews hasn't pitched since Monday night, when he gave up a home run to Seattle's Edgar Martinez, making him eligible to return on June 17 against the New York Yankees at Camden Yards.
"He's got general stiffness in his shoulder," Miller said. "I had [pitching coach] Mike Flanagan stretch him out real good [Friday] to see if it would loosen up, then DL him and send him out and do what should have happened, where he should have rehabbed a couple starts."
Mathews said the club already had scheduled a few starts for him at Double-A Bowie. "Basically, it's the same stiffness you get during spring training because I hadn't thrown in so long. Physically, there's nothing wrong with me," he said.
"They explained to me this is a chance to do the right thing because of the way I had to come back before."
Mathews had allowed runs in six of his nine appearances before going on the DL for the first time. He has made some mechanical adjustments since then, pleasing Miller with the results his first two outings.
"He had his arm in that new, low delivery and it looked pretty good. The ball was sinking and everything. But then the last time out he was back up. He said he was stiff as heck and that's when he gave up the home run," Miller said.
"Hopefully, there's a way to remedy that and get him healthy."
Hammonds was out of the lineup for a sixth consecutive game after starting 14 of 15. Miller said the outfielder received an anti-inflammatory injection Friday and has been receiving heat treatments.
The move is retroactive to Wednesday because Hammonds was used as a pinch runner the previous day, scoring on Rafael Palmeiro's game-winning homer against Seattle. He's batting .262 (37-for-141) with five homers, 23 RBIs and is tied with Roberto Alomar for the club stolen base lead with seven. This is his sixth stop on the DL since breaking into the majors in 1993.
"It hasn't progressed. It's limiting both my throwing and my hitting in a major way," he said.
Two Kamieniecki views
Taking what he admitted was an optimistic view, assistant general manager Kevin Malone said the club is hoping pitcher Scott Kamieniecki can return "in the next seven days or so." But Kamieniecki, after meeting with a doctor yesterday, said he was told it will be at least a few more weeks.
Kamieniecki has been on the DL since May 23 with stiffness in his neck, and is eligible to return today. He had an MRI done before Friday's game, which he said showed a pulled muscle.
"Like any pull, you keep trying and you re-pull it. We'll give it a few weeks before I try going full-bore," he said.
Said Miller: "It bothers him when he throws his breaking ball. He probably could work through it, but everybody's a little worried that he could injure it more, so let's get it checked out completely."
The club hasn't dismissed the possibility Kamieniecki has a nerve injury similar to what reliever Alan Mills suffered last year after colliding with Lenny Webster, causing a muscle in his shoulder to atrophy. Mills didn't return for two months.
Malone also said the club is hopeful that pitcher Jimmy Key, who went on the DL May 24 with inflammation in his left rotator cuff, will return by the end of the month. "He's got a long ways to go," Malone said.
With two-fifths of their rotation missing, Malone said the Orioles continue to explore possible trades for a starting pitcher. "The problem is supply and demand. The demand is much greater than the supply. There are a lot of people looking," he said.
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