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 all but ends 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. The Orioles have yet to decide who will make Mussina's start, and the man who had been the favorite, long reliever Doug Johns, pitched last night.

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 exercises 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. Mussina 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 stiffness decreases, he won't return to the mound.

"I'll be out there when I'm out there. I expected that I can be back out there five days after when I was supposed to pitch," Mussina 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' situation may demand quicker action. Rhodes 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 among 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, Riley entered the week having thrown a combined 154 2/3 innings.

Pickering, injured for pieces of this season, is projected as a possible 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.

The Orioles have been enamored by Garcia since spring training, when he made the Opening Day roster as fallout from Delino DeShields' broken right thumb.

Garcia, however, has since confronted a wrist injury and was hitting only .253 with one home run and 15 RBIs entering the week. He had split 46 games between second base and shortstop.

Kohlmeier, 22, would represent the most intriguing nominee. A 14th-round draft selection in 1996, he has spent parts of the past three seasons at Bowie working exclusively in relief. None of his 153 professionals appearances has been a start. Kohlmeier finished 44 of his first 50 outings this season, including 21 saves.

Royals' Reichert out for season

Royals rookie Dan Reichert, struck in the elbow Monday by a liner off the bat of Albert Belle, will be out the rest of the season.

The Royals said tests indicated that the right-hander suffered a crack in his right elbow. Reichert's arm will be placed in a splint and he will be sidelined at least four to six weeks.

A first-round pick in 1997, Reichert was 2-2 with a 9.08 ERA and showed signs of improvement since being called up from Triple-A in July. He pitched seven shutout innings last week in New York in a victory over the Yankees.

Around the horn

The Orioles' bullpen continues to serve as a second-half strength. Entering last night, relievers had blown only one save since July 7, compared to 20 before. In its 29 games before last night, the bullpen had compiled a 2.97 ERA, helping to lower the team ERA to 4.88, fifth-best in the league. Cal Ripken swung a bat in the Kauffman Stadium indoor cage yesterday but is still believed several days away from taking live batting practice.

Pub Date: 8/26/99

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