Swelling delays thumbs-up for Clark's return

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Batting grip is affected, clouding activation date

Ripken getting in swing

May 09, 1999|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

DETROIT -- Given medical clearance on Tuesday to do "whatever you can handle," Will Clark has been running and taking ground balls as he readies for a return from the fractured left thumb that forced him onto the disabled list retroactive to April 19.

Orioles manager Ray Miller said the first baseman also is supposed to start hitting off a tee, but Clark still is dealing with some swelling that affects his grip.

Clark said the thumb wasn't as tender to the touch yesterday as on Friday. However, he couldn't project when he'd be able to swing a bat, let alone reclaim his position in the lineup.

"If I can get the swelling out of there and get the mobility back and get some strength back in there, I'll be all right. But that hasn't happened yet," he said.

Before yesterday's 7-6 loss to Detroit, Miller sounded optimistic when asked about Clark being activated. "Our thoughts and his thoughts were somewhere toward the end of this road trip," he said. "I guess it's going to boil down to how he feels. If it affects his swing at all, I'd say no."

Said Clark: "I'm hoping to be back tomorrow if I can make it, but I can't tell you what's going to happen by the end of this trip. I'm coming in here every day doing the therapy and seeing how it progresses.

"The last time I had to do a rehab I was only gone for three days. I don't envision it being long once I get it going. The big thing is going to be hitting the ball and having the vibration, the shock, and seeing how that affects it."

Ripken swinging well

Miller was encouraged by a report from hitting coach Terry Crowley, who told the manager that Cal Ripken was swinging the bat "10 times better than in spring training."

What must be decided is whether Ripken will be taking any swings on a minor-league rehab assignment. Having the 16-time All-Star report to Triple-A Rochester or one of the Maryland affiliates would be "an absolute zoo," Miller said.

Another option would be sending Ripken to the minor-league complex in Sarasota, Fla., and letting him lead off every inning to get a significant number of at-bats.

When Clark and Ripken return to the active roster, Miller must decide whether to keep 12 pitchers or return to 11.

"The obvious thing is to say we'll go with 11, but we'll have to wait and see when that time comes. It might be the right thing to do," Miller said.

Until yesterday, that would have been an easier call. Orioles starters had reached the sixth inning in eight consecutive games, and had completed seven innings five times during that span. But Scott Kamieniecki's inability to get through the second yesterday after having the same problem in Monday's exhibition against Cuba is cause for concern.

Trouble with the mound

When left-hander Jesse Orosco replaced Mike Mussina in Friday's series opener, his first appearance since April 29, it wasn't rust that gave him trouble. It was the mound.

Orosco retired the last two batters he faced in the seventh after walking Bobby Higginson and falling behind Dean Palmer, but the task was made more difficult because of the hole left by Tigers starter Justin Thompson.

"He digs a pretty good hole," Orosco said. "I had the choice of stepping across and missing it or going into his stride. I went into his stride or I would have needed to throw across my body too much."

Bullish on B. J.

Reliever Ricky Bones said if he could pick one player to build a team around, it would be left fielder B. J. Surhoff.

"He's a leader. He works hard. He's the guy I look at," Bones said.

"Sometimes, stars tend to take things for granted. They hit a ground ball and don't run hard. B. J. hits one and always runs hard. You don't see many double plays with him because he runs everything out."

Bones has been an admirer of Surhoff's since their days together in Milwaukee.

"You see good outfielders who never get to balls he gets to. He makes it look like he's been there his whole career," Bones said. "With the Brewers in '92, we led the league in ERA and he was the everyday catcher. Two years later he was the third baseman."

Reliever Mike Fetters wonders why Surhoff, who never has been an All-Star, doesn't get the recognition of his peers.

"He does everything -- hits, fields, runs -- and he goes all out," Fetters said. "[Texas outfielder] Rusty Greer does it and everybody is all over him. You don't hear that about B. J."

Around the horn

Tigers catcher Bill Haselman had a third-inning double to extend his hitting streak to a career-high seven games. Center fielder Gabe Kapler's double in the second inning extended his streak to a career-high nine. All five of Palmer's home runs have come in the last 16 games, and he has scored at least one run in 12 of the last 13.

Pub Date: 5/09/99

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