Carter at home for this road stop Ex-Blue Jay admits to fond Toronto memories

Orioles Notebook

Key's shoulder improving

June 13, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

TORONTO -- Joe Carter came home last night to a place he admittedly never wanted to leave. During a pre-game news conference at SkyDome, Carter reiterated he will retire an Oriole but will always consider himself a Toronto Blue Jay, adding that if he is voted into the Hall of Fame he will be enshrined under the Canadian team's hat.

Saying his Orioles experience "has not been what I expected" because of the club's sluggish start, Carter described his absence from Toronto as "tough." A Sunday night celebration will make it only more difficult.

For the first time since he was with the Cleveland Indians in 1989, Carter arrived at SkyDome and walked into the visitors' clubhouse.

"It's weird. This is totally different. To come to Toronto and stay in a hotel room instead of my old apartment is like an out-of-body experience," he said.

And he experienced similar success to his Blue Jays days, going 2-for-5 with a double, a triple and three RBIs.

Carter, who spent seven years with the Blue Jays, was greeted by a standing ovation in the first inning and tipped his helmet to the same fans who reveled in his World Series-clinching home run against Philadelphia Phillies reliever Mitch Williams in 1993. With Carter in left field, the Blue Jays won back-to-back World Series titles in 1992 and 1993.

On Thursday's day off, Carter and Williams bowled a set against each other for an ESPN segment. Williams, a 190-average bowler, wanted payback. However, Carter won all three games.

Asked about his Orioles experience, Carter gave a wistful response. "It just goes to show you that money doesn't always buy you a pennant," he said. "You've got to go out there and deal with injuries. You've got to deal with a new manager There's an adjustment to being with new guys. But no one could have suspected we would lose three-fifths of our rotation. But any day I can put a uniform on it's going to be fun. It's not always about wins and losses but how you approach the game."

Key rehab accelerates

Once fearful that Jimmy Key might be lost for the season with an inflamed left rotator cuff, the Orioles now believe their No. 3 starter could resume throwing next week and perhaps return to the rotation shortly after the All-Star break.

Key, on the disabled list retroactive to May 2, until recently was unable to perform even the slightest arm exercises. However, a trip to Birmingham, Ala., orthopedist Dr. James Andrews on Monday included a second cortisone injection that has removed pain that Key has compared to "a migraine" in his shoulder.

Since returning from Alabama, Key has graduated from 3-pound to 4-pound cuff weights and may begin throwing next week when the team returns home. Head trainer Richie Bancells would not rule out Key pitching from a mound shortly thereafter. Once Key returns to a side program, he could return within two to three weeks barring complications.

News is less encouraging for No. 4 starter Scott Kamieniecki, who has remained in Baltimore to receive treatment for a muscle strain near his neck. The club remains unsure about the source of the problem and has no idea when he may resume throwing.

Hammonds on hold

Outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds is still slowed by muscle spasms that landed him on the disabled list retroactive to June 3. Able to come off next Thursday, Hammonds may have to wait longer in order to regain strength in the affected area.

Hammonds hasn't started since May 31, the final game in a stretch that had him start 14 of 15 games. While the condition has not worsened, Hammonds cannot begin strengthening the area until the spasms have stopped.

Defense, defense

Lampooned nationally for their noncommittal play three weeks ago, the Orioles have responded with virtually airtight defense the last 18 games. After committing 29 errors in their first 48 games, the Orioles have climbed atop the league's fielding stats. Expansion Tampa Bay (31) is the only other AL club to have committed fewer than 37 errors. The streak began on May 24. The only miscue since was Roberto Alomar's booted grounder June 4 in Boston.

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