Nerve woes keep Hammonds weeks away His back spasms related to nerve irritation

Orioles Notebook

Drabek side session goes well

June 21, 1998|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Orioles officials said yesterday that outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds is at least two weeks away from returning to the active roster, and also confirmed the suspicion that the muscle spasms in his back are related to a nerve irritation.

The Orioles have been reluctant to discuss what they consider to be minor injuries, but with Hammonds out of the lineup since June 2 and still not cleared to begin hitting or throwing since going on the disabled list, it became apparent his condition was more serious than originally thought.

Head athletic trainer Richie Bancells said it's not known for certain what caused the irritation, which led to numbness down his left side that has begun to lessen. It's suspected that the source dates back to when Hammonds ran face-first into the center-field fence making a catch on April 5.

"He hyper-extended his neck a little bit," Bancells said, "but we don't know for sure if it was just one play. Many times, those things don't exhibit themselves until down the road a little bit, when his muscles got weak enough that they just started to spasm. And his spasms were quite violent and over a broad area."

Bancells also stressed that there's no nerve damage, and Hammonds' condition isn't the same as the pinched nerve Alan Mills suffered last year after colliding with Lenny Webster.

"He continues to improve. He's doing strength exercises with the weights and feeling better all the time," Bancells said of Hammonds. "The sensation is improving and his strength is improving."

Drabek OK in side session

Doug Drabek threw for about 10 minutes in the Orioles' bullpen yesterday, his first effort from a mound since straining a muscle on the right side of his chest eight days ago, and repeated his intention of starting Tuesday against the New York Mets at Camden Yards.

"I kind of did what I'd normally do on the side. Obviously not as long or probably not as hard, but I did enough to get something out of it," he said.

Drabek had played catch twice before yesterday's session. "I started off slow just to get everything used to throwing off the mound, and then I put a little more into it to make sure it was loose and see how it felt, see if I could get on top and follow through. As far as I could tell, I wasn't favoring anything," he said.

Drabek strained the muscle while warming up before his last start, June 13 in Toronto. He lasted two innings before leaving and missed his turn Thursday.

Webster catches no rest

Proving there's no rest for the weary when your turn comes up, Webster was back in the lineup after catching all 15 innings of Friday night's win over the Blue Jays.

Webster usually starts whenever Scott Erickson pitches, and manager Ray Miller decided yesterday to keep the pair intact even though Friday's game lasted a club-record 5 hours, 49 minutes and wasn't completed until Rafael Palmeiro homered with two outs in the 15th inning off Blue Jays reliever Bill Risley at 1: 25 a.m.

Miller stood near Webster's locker after Friday's game, surveying the clubhouse to see who might need to take off the next night. Webster heard his name mentioned and told Miller, "I'll be all right."

"I can tell after a game if the next morning's going to be bad, and I felt pretty good after the game. I got out of the shower and felt pretty loose. My legs aren't tight or anything," Webster said.

His bat wasn't slow either. Webster hit a three-run homer in the second inning last night to open the Orioles' scoring. He later singled, raising his average to .262.

If Palmeiro hadn't decided the outcome, Friday's game would have been suspended because of curfew (no inning can begin after 1 a.m.) and resumed last night at 7: 05. The scheduled game would have followed after a 30-minute break.

It would have been the club's first suspended game since June 21, 1987, against Detroit and its first in Baltimore since July 31, 1978, against Milwaukee. It would have come because the Orioles stranded 16 runners and were 1-for-17 with men in scoring position until Palmeiro's blast.

Miller was using his last reliever, Norm Charlton, when the end came Friday. Making his third straight appearance, Charlton was credited with the win after getting the last two outs in the 15th, a nice reversal from Thursday's one-inning, five-run disaster.

The Orioles' bullpen notched 10 shutout innings, permitting just four hits and striking out nine.

Around the horn

Brady Anderson's two doubles moved him past Boog Powell into sole possession of fifth place on the Orioles' career list (245). Paul Blair is fourth with 269. With his run-scoring triple, B. J. Surhoff ended an 0-for-16 skid. The Orioles wives' food drive generated more than $7,000 in cash contributions and 3 tons of food items in two days.

Orioles today

Opponent: Toronto Blue Jays

Site: Camden Yards

Time: 1: 35 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Blue Jays' Pat Hentgen (7-4, 4.35) vs. Orioles' Sidney Ponson, (1-4, 5.28)

Tickets: 400 remain

Pub Date: 6/21/98

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