Greene gingerly counts blessings Outfielder aching but OK after scary run-in with wall

Orioles Notebook

September 24, 1998|By Roch Kubatko and Joe Strauss | Roch Kubatko and Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

TORONTO -- As Willie Greene filled a bowl with soup in the visiting clubhouse at SkyDome yesterday, he lifted the ladle as if each noodle weighed a ton. His actions were slow, deliberate, with no sudden turns. But considering what his body had been through less than 24 hours earlier, he was getting along just fine.

Greene had a slight headache and soreness in his lower back and left shoulder, the price paid for a violent collision with the left-field wall during Tuesday's loss to the Blue Jays.

"It could have been much worse," he said.

It sure looked that way.

Greene struck his head on a padded fence post while reaching for a slicing fly ball from Tony Fernandez and crumpled to the warning track. The game was delayed 14 minutes as he was strapped to a spinal board and taken by ambulance to Mount Sinai Hospital, where X-rays on his neck and skull were negative. Greene suffered a mild concussion.

"I didn't remember anything after I hit the wall except them putting the brace around my neck," he said.

"You always think cervical spine injury is a possibility," said trainer Richie Bancells. "You go through and eliminate all those things. Once he was responsive to me, then I'm trying to make sure he can move his extremities. Those were fine. His hands and arms were fine. We wanted to see what kind of strength he had. Once we were clear on that, we thought we were pretty much out of the danger zone."

There's a chance Greene could play during the four-game series in Boston that concludes the season, though the club may decide not to take the unnecessary risk.

Greene also has been bothered by a strained groin muscle since joining the Orioles Aug. 10 in a trade with Cincinnati.

"It's been kind of a tough stretch but injuries are something you have to deal with," he said.

Hammonds' wrist repaired

The player Greene was obtained for, outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds, is having health problems of his own. Yesterday he underwent surgery to remove the hamate bone from his left wrist.

Hammonds batted .302 with 11 RBIs and no homers in 86 at-bats for the Reds before going on the disabled list. Hammonds is expected to be ready for spring training.

Yesterday's procedure, however, gave Hammonds a sense of vindication as he felt the Orioles consistently doubted his desire to play. Hamstring, disk and wrist injuries limited his time this season as he batted .269 with six home runs and 28 RBIs in 171 at-bats.

"They've been on me all year for not hitting home runs," said Hammonds. "Now they know all my stuff was broken."

Key: Bullpen future?

Orioles manager Ray Miller is lobbying for Jimmy Key to return next season in the same role he's taken on since leaving the rotation, as a left-handed specialist who can work an inning or two and help carry a game to the closer.

Key, 37, has ruled out having surgery on his left shoulder, which probably would be the only way for him to resume starting. Earlier this year, he had shown little interest in continuing to pitch in a limited capacity, saying he would make a decision after the season.

Miller and pitching coach Mike Flanagan have talked to Key about his value in the bullpen. Since Key will be a free agent, Miller said he'd probably have to sign a low-base contract with lots of incentives.

"That's going to be his decision. But that's a meaningful role," Miller said of the bullpen.

Bowden to interview

Orioles chief operating officer Joe Foss will interview Cincinnati Reds general manager Jim Bowden today as the search goes on for a successor to outgoing general manager Pat Gillick.

Bowden will be the second candidate interviewed; Foss spoke with Florida Marlins assistant general manager Frank Wren on Tuesday. Foss intends to speak with Cleveland Indians assistant GM Dan O'Dowd and Atlanta Braves assistant GM Dean Taylor before the process enters its second stage.

Fussell gets chance, notice

Rookie Chris Fussell wasn't sure he'd get another chance to start in the season's final week, especially after being bypassed Sunday for left-hander Doug Johns. Now, he'll have the opportunity to impress Miller even further by taking the ball tomorrow against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.

At least he'll have more time to prepare. Fussell was pressed into emergency duty Sept. 15 against Texas because of Sidney Ponson's blister and responded with five solid innings.

"At least my nerves won't be as bad," he said.

Fussell has an outside shot at making the club next season, but is more likely to start out at Triple-A Rochester.

"I'll just throw the best I can," he said, "and hopefully they'll decide I'm ready for the big leagues."

Around the horn

Shannon Stewart became the fifth Blue Jay to steal 50 bases in a season. Eric Davis ranks third in the American League with a .328 average, trailing New York's Bernie Williams (.335) and Boston's Mo Vaughn (.332). Ken Singleton holds the club record for highest single-season average at .3283 in 1977. Roberto Alomar batted .3282 in 1996. Since Frank Robinson hit a league-leading .316 in 1966, only three Orioles have finished in the top five in the AL batting race: Singleton was third in 1977, Eddie Murray was fourth in 1982 (.316) and Cal Ripken was fifth in 1983 (.318). Fernandez's fifth-inning single gave the Blue Jay a career-high 71 RBIs this season.

Pub Date: 9/24/98

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