Chips fall in favor of Erickson

Elbow surgery goes well, with removal of bone particles, big chip

O's return seen in late April

`Dr. Yocum believes that [chip] was culprit'

March 04, 2000|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Right-hander Scott Erickson underwent successful arthroscopic elbow surgery in Los Angeles yesterday and could be ready to rejoin the Orioles' starting rotation in late April.

Orthopedic specialist Dr. Lewis Yocum removed several small bone particles from Erickson's inflamed right elbow, including one significant bone chip that probably was the source of the soreness and swelling that sidelined the veteran starter last week.

"The operation was successful," said Orioles vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift. "Those particles were removed from the elbow, and Dr. Yocum referred specifically to one in the area that Scott kept pointing to as the source of the swelling."

Erickson is scheduled to return to the Orioles' spring training facility in Fort Lauderdale tonight and begin some light range-of-motion exercises early next week. The outcome of the surgery confirmed Yocum's original projection that Erickson should be ready to rejoin the rotation in six to eight weeks.

"I think the most difficult thing for Scott will be not doing too much," Thrift said, "but that's just his nature."

Manager Mike Hargrove was pleased to hear that Yocum found nothing more serious than a few bone chips. Once it was determined that Erickson would require surgery, that was the best-case scenario.

"It's just good to know that Scotty came through the surgery all right," Hargrove said. "We're looking forward to getting him back here and for his rehabilitation program to start, but the last thing we want to do is rush him and hurt him on the back end. I've seen people rush their rehab and cause it to last longer than it should."

Erickson certainly is a candidate to push it too hard. He has long been one of the most durable pitchers in the major leagues and takes pride in his reputation as a workhorse. But the Orioles cannot afford to take a chance on losing him for more than the first few weeks of the regular season.

"I think because of the surgery, the natural tendency will be to err on the side of caution," Hargrove said. "We'll just see how it goes."

Right-hander Calvin Maduro took his place in the spring rotation, starting the first game of the exhibition season with a strong two-inning performance against the Cincinnati Reds. Jose Mercedes, Matt Riley and Radhames Dykhoff also will get a chance to compete for the temporary vacancy in the rotation.

If all goes well, Erickson should get back in time to make 30 starts, more than enough to position him for another productive season. He went 1-8 to start the season last year and still was able to recover in time to win 15 games.

He arrived at spring training in excellent physical shape and took three turns on the practice mound before waking up Feb. 22 with severe stiffness and swelling. When a magnetic resonance imaging performed Monday proved inconclusive, he was sent to Los Angeles for more tests, which revealed the bone chips suspected of causing the inflammation.

"Dr. Yocum believes that one specific particle was the culprit," said Thrift, "because he was having trouble straightening his arm and that's the area he kept pointing to."

The news could have been much worse. If Yocum had found and removed an attached bone spur, the recovery time could have been several weeks longer. If the problem was related to the elbow ligament, Erickson might have been forced to sit out the entire season.

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