Mussina to miss next start, maybe another

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Tightness in shoulder keeps ace on sideline

August 26, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Still wearing a purple-and-red remnant from Sunday's line drive incident at Camden Yards, Orioles ace Mike Mussina confirmed yesterday that he will miss at least tomorrow's start against the Detroit Tigers and is not guaranteed of returning for his next turn as well.

The concession further complicates Mussina's pursuit of his first 20-win season, a quest he says isn't worth jeopardizing his bruised right shoulder or his pitching mechanics.

Mussina is waiting for residual tightness in his right deltoid muscle to ease. Since Sunday evening, when Mussina (15-7, 3.60 ERA) complained the pain was at its worst, the condition has steadily improved, and he participated in pre-game stretching yesterday.

Mussina was struck on the back of his right shoulder when Chicago White Sox catcher Brook Fordyce lined a shot to the mound. Mussina left the game and underwent a magnetic resonance imaging, which revealed no structural damage. He rejoined the team Tuesday night along with reliever Arthur Rhodes, who was forced from the same game by a one-hopper that struck the back of his left index finger.

Mussina said he experiences discomfort when he reached his release point. Until that decreases, he won't return to the mound.

"I expected that I can be back out there five days after when I was supposed to pitch," he said. "I think that's realistic. But I'm not going to force myself into anything. If there is any question about it, I'll wait another start.

"At this point in the season, considering where we are [in the standings], there's no reason to push it."

Manager Ray Miller had yet to discuss a timetable with Mussina before last night's game. Told that Mussina suggested he was uncertain about his status next week, Miller said, "That's not good."

Rhodes, meanwhile, said he will attempt to throw from a mound today or tomorrow given that swelling had gone down in the finger. Though smacked on the tip of his finger, Rhodes did not suffer a tear of his fingernail.

Miller voiced hope that Rhodes would become available before this weekend's series in Detroit.

Orioles select fall players

The Arizona Fall League is expected to announce its rosters today. As part of its agreement to stock the Scottsdale Scorpions, who will be managed by bench coach Eddie Murray, the Orioles will likely send first baseman Calvin Pickering, catcher Jayson Werth, infielder Jesse Garcia, closer Ryan Kohlmeier, outfielder Eugene Kingsale and left-handed starting pitcher Matt Riley.

Supervised by director of baseball operations Frank Robinson, the Arizona Fall League is considered a developmental league composed of highly rated prospects.

For the Orioles, it will provide an important stage to evaluate players considered strong candidates to make their 2000 roster. Pickering, Garcia and Kingsale are expected to be on the Orioles' September roster.

Riley, however, is believed likely to receive the month off after making 16 starts at Double-A Bowie and eight starts at Single-A Frederick. Between the two stops, he entered the week having thrown a combined 154 2/3 innings.

Pickering, injured for pieces of this season, is projected as a first baseman-designated hitter. Through his first 87 games he was hitting .289 with 10 home runs and 58 RBIs, third at Triple-A Rochester to Orioles third baseman Ryan Minor and catcher Julio Vinas.

Werth, one of the Orioles' two first-round draft picks in 1997, impressed the organization with his progression from Single-A to Bowie this season. The switch-hitting Kingsale has developed beyond a spindly, slap-and-sprint talent and entered the week with a .379 on-base average at Rochester.

Around the horn

Orioles relievers have blown only one save since July 7, compared to 20 before. In its past 30 games before, the bullpen has compiled a 3.05 ERA, helping to lower the team ERA to 4.91, fifth-best in the league and 0.42 lower than at the All-Star break. Cal Ripken swung a bat in the Kauffman Stadium indoor cage but is still believed several days away from taking live batting practice.

Pub Date: 8/26/99

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