Shoulder hurting, Hairston faces decision

O's second baseman tries physical therapy first but may need surgery

November 17, 1999|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Orioles second baseman Jerry Hairston said he'll know by next week whether arthroscopic surgery will be necessary to repair a slightly torn labrum in his left shoulder.

Hairston, who batted .269 in 50 games with the Orioles, said he began feeling discomfort in the shoulder during the season and it gradually got more intense. He tried to play winter ball in Venezuela at the suggestion of former general manager Frank Wren, but returned home after three games when the pain became "unbearable." A magnetic resonance imaging last week confirmed the tear.

"I don't know exactly when it happened," he said. "My shoulder kept bothering me and bothering me. That's one of the reasons I didn't want to play winter ball. I knew my shoulder wasn't really 100 percent.

"It just really started to ache. It was one of those things that was like a little nagging injury, and it got progressively worse. Toward the end of the season, probably the last week or two, it really started to bother me, but I just played through it. But it got so bad I couldn't do it in Venezuela."

Hairston, 23, has been doing exercises with a physical therapist, Russ Payne, in Houston, for about 10 days and said he has noticed improvement in the shoulder.

"I'm with the best rehab guy in the world, so I'm very confident," he said. "I guess that's why they call him `Russ Payne.' Boy, you're in a lot of pain after you leave there. He really works that muscle out. I've been going there every day and working hard.

"Right now, I'm trying to avoid surgery. But either way, I will be ready for spring training, so that's not a problem. I'm not worried about that. I just want to get it taken care of now, in the off-season. But the bottom line is I'll be ready for spring training whether I have it scoped or not. We'll make a decision in about a week. Right now, I'm leaning toward not having it scoped because it's feeling better. If I can get it to 90, 95 percent, I'll be ready to go. And that's good."

Hairston began the 1998 season at Single-A Frederick, moved up to Double-A Bowie and had his contract purchased by the Orioles in September, becoming the third generation in his family to make it to the majors.

The Illinois native started this season at Triple-A Rochester, but returned to the Orioles on June 22 when Delino DeShields went on the disabled list with a strained right hamstring. He was sent back to Rochester on July 23 despite making a favorable impression on club officials, an unpopular move with fans looking for something positive to grasp from an otherwise disappointing season.

Challenged by then-Orioles manager Ray Miller to maintain a good attitude and continue putting up solid numbers, Hairston batted .333 with the Red Wings.

Overall, he batted .291 with 24 doubles, five triples, seven homers and 48 RBIs in 107 games at Rochester.

He added four homers and 17 RBIs with the Orioles and didn't commit an error in 50 games despite beginning his professional career as a shortstop.

With seemingly nothing else to prove in the minors, Hairston has left club officials with a difficult decision when constructing the roster for next season. DeShields has two years left on the contract he signed last winter and could be shopped around.

Even without the injury, Hairston had planned on playing only half a season in Venezuela because of the substantial number of at-bats he received this year.

"Frank Wren had wanted me to go down there and see some extra pitching, which probably wouldn't have hurt me. That's why I went down there," he said.

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