Clark gets thumbs up for test in Florida

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

If rehab stint goes well, he'd join O's next week

Johnson debuts tonight

May 20, 1999|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

First baseman Will Clark will leave today for Florida, where he will begin a brief injury rehabilitation assignment at the Orioles' extended spring training program in Sarasota.

Clark will play in camp games Friday and Saturday, getting extra at-bats by leading off every inning. It is the same routine that Cal Ripken employed before returning from the disabled list last week. If all goes well, he'll rejoin the major-league club in Anaheim for the start of a nine-game West Coast swing.

Manager Ray Miller seemed confident yesterday that Clark would not need many at-bats to find his stroke.

"I think of Will like I think of Harold [Baines]," Miller said. "I think you could lock him in a closet for a month and the first fastball he sees, he's going to hit a line drive."

Clark resumed taking batting practice Tuesday, though he apparently still is experiencing some discomfort from the thumb fracture he suffered fielding a ball on April 18.

Miller indicated that when Clark returns, it will not be in any limited capacity. The Orioles already have a left-handed designated hitter who is swinging the bat very well, so Clark will hit the ground running and fielding.

"I don't know how he feels about that," Miller said, "but I assume that if he can hit, he can field."

Clark no longer is giving daily updates on his condition or his rehabilitation program, but he has made it clear that his thumb is not 100 percent healed. He probably would have enjoyed facing his old team -- the Texas Rangers -- this weekend, but obviously agreed that it would be more prudent to work his way back into game shape with a couple of minor-league games.

Painful absence

When Angels manager Terry Collins arrived in Baltimore to find the local newspapers awash with speculation about Miller's job security, he was in a unique position to sympathize.

Collins has seen his team decimated by serious injuries. The Angels lost shortstop Gary DiSarcina to a freak elbow injury at the start of spring training. They also are playing without All-Star outfielders Tim Salmon and Jim Edmonds, and pitchers Jason Dickson, Mike James and Jack McDowell.

"Absolutely, I know what he's going through," said Collins, who broke a three-game losing streak last night. "He's a strong guy. He'll deal with it. He's not going to let it change the way he does his job."

Miller lost three starting pitchers to the disabled list at the start of the 1998 season and the Orioles never really recovered. He lost Clark and Ripken early on this year and the club is mired in the American League East cellar.

The Angels also are in last place, and only DiSarcina and McDowell have a chance to come back anytime soon.

"I wish I could say [there is light at the end of the tunnel]," Collins said. "We have DiSarcina and McDowell close, but when it comes to Edmonds and Salmon -- not really. We'll just have to start with Gary and Jack right now."

New kid on the mound

Hard-throwing right-hander Jason Johnson makes his Orioles major-league debut tonight in the series finale against the Angels, replacing struggling Scott Kamieniecki in the starting rotation.

It will not, however, be the young pitcher's debut at Camden Yards. He started for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays against the Orioles on May 17 last year and gave up just two hits over six shutout innings. That impressive appearance influenced the Orioles' decision to acquire him from the Devil Rays for minor-league outfielder Danny Clyburn.

"I'd like to see him," said Miller. "Last year, we tried different people and then finally called for [Sidney] Ponson. At some point, you go with the best arm you've got. Hopefully, we'll get some innings out of him."

Scoring change

Albert Belle's error total in right field dropped from three to two yesterday when official scorer Mark Jacobson reconsidered the error charged to Belle on a base hit by Angels infielder Andy Sheets on Tuesday night.

Sheets was running all the way when Belle bobbled the ball he lined into right field in the eighth inning, so the single/error was changed to a double.

Angels roster moves

The Angels summoned Chris Pritchett and Steve Decker from Triple-A Edmonton yesterday, demoting outfielder Reggie Williams and designating infielder Dave Silvestri for assignment. Both players were scheduled to join the club yesterday, but had not arrived from Canada by game time.

Collins said that Pritchett likely will start at first base tonight and Darin Erstad would move from first base back to the outfield in anticipation of Mo Vaughn eventually reclaiming his position.

Vaughn has been used as the DH while he continues to bounce back from the ankle sprain he suffered on Opening Day.

"When Mo goes back to first, Darin has to go out to the outfield," Collins said. "Why not get him out there now?"

Decker was recalled to beef up the injury-depleted offensive attack. He was leading the Pacific Coast League with 12 home runs when the Angels purchased his contract from Edmonton.

Pub Date: 5/20/99

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