Fetters' rehab is ahead of schedule

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Reliever begins soft tossing five weeks after surgery

Reyes off to striking start

July 29, 1999|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Gone but not forgotten, Orioles reliever Mike Fetters has started doing some soft tossing and reports that he's ahead of schedule in his recovery from elbow surgery.

Fetters, who went on the disabled list June 7, is working with a physical therapist at his home in Gilbert, Ariz. He spoke with Orioles manager Ray Miller over the weekend and said he'd probably be able to throw off a mound in about a week.

"He's doing three times more than he was supposed to and the doctors are pretty excited," Miller said. "He sounded pretty excited. He said he's champing at the bit."

Fetters, 34, first complained of soreness in the elbow while pitching against Philadelphia on June 6 at Camden Yards. He felt some tightness while warming up but didn't reveal the problem until after he had walked a batter and given up a two-run homer to Scott Rolen in the sixth inning.

He had surgery June 22 to remove bone spurs from the elbow after being examined by club orthopedic doctor Michael Jacobs and receiving a second opinion from Dr. Lewis Yocum in Los Angeles.

Miller couldn't project when Fetters might be ready to rejoin the club. Once he's cleared to begin an extensive throwing program, he most likely would report to the minor-league facility in Sarasota, Fla.

Signed as a free agent in February, Fetters is 1-0 with a 5.48 ERA.

Baines hurts, hits

Facing an exaggerated infield shift in the first inning of Tuesday's game, with Texas third baseman Todd Zeile rotated to shortstop, Harold Baines deftly poked a double down the left-field line. Eyeing a more conventional alignment in his next at-bat, Baines pulled a double off the glove of first baseman Lee Stevens.

One of baseball's most gifted hitters, Baines wouldn't take full credit for the results. He wasn't aiming for the opposite field in the first inning despite the opening.

"It only went that way because I hit it off the end of the bat. I call that luck," he said.

"They shifted for a reason. A lot of teams do that. But I don't change anything. I used every inch of the bat and hit it off the tip.

"The other one tipped off [Stevens'] glove. Both of them were luck. I wish I was that good to place them like that."

Baines is good enough to have began last night hitting .376 (64-for-170) in his last 49 games, with 10 doubles, 14 homers, 40 RBIs and 31 runs scored.

He's producing like this despite playing with a strained right shoulder that requires treatment. Miller indicated that Baines received a cortisone shot earlier this season.

"When he swings and misses, it bothers him," Miller said. "It's something that's going to be aggravating to a point where it's just [a matter of] what he can accept and what he can deal with.

"There's no guarantee that if he had three, four or five days off that it would be any better. It's a day-to-day thing.

"He told me it only hurts when he misses. So, contrary to other people's opinions, being a halfway decent baseball person, I said, `Don't miss.' "

False alarm

Miller met with general manager Frank Wren and assistant GM Bruce Manno yesterday afternoon, leading to speculation that the topic involved possible roster moves with Saturday's trade deadline looming.

Wrong.

"We were trying to decide what to do if we got rained out," Miller said.

The Orioles were faced with the likelihood of playing a doubleheader today before flying to Seattle, where they begin a three-game series tomorrow night.

A Reyes of light

Miller couldn't recall having seen Al Reyes pitch before the right-hander joined the Orioles on July 21, but he's definitely been impressed in his two viewings this week.

Reyes, acquired from Milwaukee as the player to be named in the Rocky Coppinger trade, struck out all three Anaheim batters he faced on Sunday. And he followed an impressive debut with 2 1/3 shutout innings after allowing a leadoff single to the Rangers' Todd Zeile in the seventh inning of Tuesday's game.

"He's been a pleasant surprise," Miller said. "He told me he's throwing as good as last year but he was walking a lot of people. He's given us a big shot in the arm."

Most impressive to Miller has been Reyes' low pitch counts. He needed only 25 to complete 2 1/3 innings on Tuesday, after throwing 11 while striking out the side against Anaheim.

"When you've got a guy who doesn't throw a lot of pitches, that's a good reliever," Miller said. "Twenty-five pitches is an average inning for a lot of people."

Around the horn

The start of last night's game was delayed 37 minutes because of rain. Juan Gonzalez remained out of the Rangers' lineup because of soreness in his right wrist.

Erickson's climb

Still rebounding from a rugged April, Scott Erickson (7-8, 5.52 ERA) last night wrapped up his most successful month of the season (statistics are an average per start):

April (5 starts, 0-5)

IP H ER BB SO ERA

5.0 7.6 5.2 2.2 2.6 9.36

May (6 starts, 1-2)

IP H ER BB SO ERA

6.5 6.6 3.7 2.6 3.7 5.08

June (5 starts, 2-1)

IP H ER BB SO ERA

6.4 9.4 4.6 3.4 2.6 6.47

July (6 starts, 4-0)

IP H ER BB SO ERA

7.4 6.2 2.5 3.3 3.2 3.05

* includes stats, not decision, from last night

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