DeShields, Rhodes don't make trip

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Further exams scheduled for both

rotation full of question marks for stretch

September 08, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

MINNEAPOLIS -- Second baseman Delino DeShields and left-handed reliever Arthur Rhodes remained in Baltimore yesterday to undergo further examinations for conditions that have followed them for weeks and that may limit their availability for the rest of the season.

Rhodes yesterday saw a hand specialist who examined his sore left index finger, injured more than two weeks ago in a game against the Chicago White Sox. DeShields will visit a doctor today in hopes of discovering the source of a left quadriceps injury.

General manager Frank Wren remained circumspect regarding how long both players will be idled but suggested that DeShields may be closer to a return than Rhodes. Both will rejoin the team when it returns for a seven-game homestand Friday.

DeShields has played only one inning in the field since injuring himself on a dive during last Thursday's game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Rhodes has appeared once since Aug. 22.

Injuries have limited DeShields since spring training when he suffered a broken left thumb during a March 4 intrasquad game. He returned April 11 only to experience repeated back spasms in May that limited his availability for two weeks. DeShields suffered a hamstring pull in Chicago on June 19 that landed him on the disabled list until July 23, a span of 28 games. His frustrating combination of injuries has allowed DeShields to make only 87 starts.

At the time unaware of DeShields' physical limitation, manager Ray Miller criticized the second baseman for what he saw as indifferent play during last month's four-game series in Kansas City. Miller was particularly irritated by DeShields' perceived indifference in pursuing a ricochet that had bounded past right fielder Albert Belle toward the infield and became an inside-the-park home run for Royals left fielder Johnny Damon.

"This kid's an All-America point guard. He's got to have a first step. You know that," Miller said, referring to DeShields' career at Seaford (Del.) High School and acceptance of a basketball scholarship at Villanova before he signed with the Montreal Expos in 1987. "But the injury wouldn't allow him to take off."

Miller said DeShields didn't disclose the extent of his injury until speaking with third base and infield coach Sam Perlozzo Aug. 29.

When able to play, DeShields has been productive. He has batted .302 in his last 73 games since suffering a .135 start in his first 22 appearances. However, DeShields' lack of range had become a concern.

"Nobody wants to win more than [DeShields] does," said Miller.

DeShields is hitting .264 with six home runs, 34 RBIs and 11 stolen bases in 19 attempts.

The Orioles are perplexed by Rhodes' injury, which initially was not thought to be serious but could now sabotage his final six weeks.

Asked whether Rhodes might shut down for the four weeks that remain, Wren said, "I don't think we're at that point yet."

However, Rhodes' left index finger was refitted with a splint yesterday, essentially putting him at the same point as after being struck on the finger Aug. 22.

Miller said Rhodes would be re-examined Friday.

Rhodes has appeared only once since suffering the injury. He went 2 1/3 scoreless innings Aug. 27 in Detroit and immediately suffered a recurrence of swelling and stiffness. Doctors have diagnosed the injury as ligament-related.

A pending free agent who may be projected as a starter by other clubs this winter, Rhodes (3-4) has struggled with his control, allowing more walks (45) than hits (43) in 53 innings covering 43 appearances.

Rotation full of doubt

Miller said yesterday that Mike Mussina's uncertain status, Matt Riley's youth and Sidney Ponson's innings load will leave the rotation unsettled for the near future.

Miller confirmed that he will skip Ponson's next scheduled start to give the 22-year-old a breather from his 187 1/3 innings, second-most on the team to Scott Erickson. Ponson suffered a difficult start Sunday against the Cleveland Indians and has shown recent signs of wear, according to Miller.

Mussina, who suffered a bruised shoulder when hit by a line drive Aug. 22, threw from a bullpen mound for about eight minutes with "about 75 percent" effort.

While Miller said he has penciled in Mussina for a Sept. 14 start against Oakland, his status will not be known until after he attempts a second side session tomorrow.

"It's kind of pointless to say anything based on today," Mussina said. "I could be stiff today and wake up fine tomorrow or feel perfectly fine today and be too stiff to throw the next time. I don't know."

Given such rampant uncertainty, Miller projected a six-man rotation for the upcoming homestand against the Seattle Mariners and Athletics. Doug Linton, Doug Johns, Erickson, Mussina, Ponson and Riley are scheduled for the first six games. The lineup includes a skipped start for Jason Johnson, as well.

Miller said he will spot start the 20-year-old Riley, who makes his major-league debut tomorrow night. Instead of taking a regular turn, Riley will likely start no more than three times.

Meanwhile, Miller again hinted that Mussina could repeatedly start on three days' rest to help his run at a 20-win season.

Around the horn

Rochester Red Wings manager Dave Machemer has joined the Orioles staff as a coach for the remainder of the season. Machemer will sport No. 57, last worn by Juan Guzman. Among the perks Machemer receives is witnessing Miller's pre-game briefing with beat reporters. Machemer was duly impressed. Of Belle's 98 RBIs, 58 have come on his 33 home runs. Minnesota recalled infielder Cleatus Davidson from Double-A New Britain.

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