Swollen knee could force Clark back to DL

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

First baseman returns here for exam

Guzman awaits trade fate, Clemens

July 04, 1999|By JOE STRAUSS | JOE STRAUSS,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- A day after being scratched from the lineup because of leg soreness, first baseman Will Clark left the team yesterday to have his severely swollen left knee examined by team doctors in Baltimore.

Team officials would not speculate on whether Clark will be placed on the disabled list for the second time this season, but manager Ray Miller indicated he believed the condition something more than a day-to-day problem.

"If he doesn't feel he can play it takes a lot to keep him out," Miller said.

Miller replaced Clark with right-handed-hitting first baseman Jeff Conine on Friday and yesterday. Clark appeared in the eighth inning Friday as a pinch hitter, striking out against Mike Stanton.

Clark has struggled recently despite hitting in nine of his last 12 games. In last week's three-game series against Toronto he was 2-for-9 with three strikeouts.

Clark already missed a month after suffering a broken left thumb April 18 against the Toronto Blue Jays. He returned May 25 but didn't homer until June 12 against the Atlanta Braves. Clark has resigned himself to feeling pain in the thumb for the rest of the season.

Should Clark return to the disabled list, the Orioles could fill his roster spot with catcher Lenny Webster or second baseman Delino DeShields. Webster (strained ankle ligaments) is two weeks into a rehab assignment at Triple-A Rochester and DeShields (pulled muscle) is eligible to come off the disabled list.

Trading places

Even if his office has recently become a very lonely place, Miller has found some company in the standings. During the Orioles' 10-game swoon, Miller has taken some consolation in seeing supposedly well-stocked teams in Los Angeles and Colorado having similar pitching problems.

Careful not to compare himself to Dodgers manager Davey Johnson and Rockies manager Jim Leyland -- two men he served under as pitching coach -- Miller cited both as examples of respected baseball men now under fire because of shortcomings by their pitching staffs.

"Davey's in a spot because his guys aren't coming through. Jimmy Leyland's suddenly dumb because he can't find anybody to pitch at 6,000 feet. You've got an outstanding young manager [Jim Riggleman] at Wrigley Field who has gotten clubbed to death the last two weeks. He isn't managing any worse. Guys aren't pitching," said Miller. "It's a very hard thing. You love [pitchers] as people. You try not to blame 'em. You come around and talk to 'em. My concern about everything here is when things are going bad and a guy looks bad throw it again. The guy's defensive. If the guy puts it in play, he's not going to drive it. If he puts it in play, somebody's going to catch it."

Then Miller went outside and watched his bullpen blow a 5-3 lead in the ninth inning. Who said prophecy is a gift?

Guzman sitting on hold

Juan Guzman finds himself in almost an identical position to last July. As a fourth starter on a team apparently headed somewhere besides the postseason, he has become a likely trade candidate as the July 31 waiver deadline approaches.

Stocking up for what proved to be an unsuccessful push for the playoffs, the Orioles obtained Guzman last July 31 from the Toronto Blue Jays for pitcher Nerio Rodriguez. Described by one industry official as "the perfect rent-a-player," Guzman is unsigned beyond this year and the Orioles have made no overtures to keep him.

Guzman, 3-6 with a 4.38 ERA, has improved since a difficult April but remains vulnerable to criticism for excessively high pitch counts. Miller instituted a fine structure last month after Guzman repeatedly failed to cover bases.

"I'm going to be better. I know I can pitch. I can help this team or some other club if that's what they feel is best," said Guzman, who faces Roger Clemens today. "It's up to them. I know that [a trade] can happen. I also know I can help a team in an important game. I've pitched in the playoffs before. I know how to handle it. I can help a club get there."

Guzman, 32, owns one of the most impressive records in League Championship Series history. From 1991-93, he won all five of his playoff starts for the Blue Jays, compiling a 2.27 ERA. He is winless in three World Series starts despite a 2.70 ERA.

Traded while serving a multi-year contract, Guzman could have demanded a trade after last season. Instead, he decided to stay with the Orioles -- and his $5.5 million contract.

"I like this town. I like this club," said Guzman. "I'd like to stay here if possible. But I've been in this situation before. They have to do what's best for them."

Heart idles Yanks' Spencer

Yankees left fielder Shane Spencer left Friday's seventh inning because of dizziness. An examination at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital later revealed that the condition was caused by atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat.

The Yankees responded yesterday by putting Spencer on the 15-day disabled list.

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