Erickson beginning to make his pitch

Oriole throws from mound for first time since surgery

March 25, 2000|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Providing the club good news about its starting rotation, sidelined Orioles pitcher Scott Erickson threw from a mound yesterday for the first time since undergoing surgery March 3 to remove bone chips from his right elbow.

Erickson made only 10 throws from the mound to a standing target, but he plans to throw to a catcher on Monday barring complications.

"The main goal is not to have any backward days," Erickson said before a morning workout in the team's weight room. "Move forward a little bit each day. When it's time to pitch, everybody will know. That's the goal."

Erickson has set a May 1 target for his return to the rotation, but there is some thought that the pitcher's aggressive rehabilitation might allow him to beat that goal. Erickson downplayed the possibility of an April return, saying, "Obviously, I'd like it to get better overnight. But it's six to eight weeks. That's what I've got to look at. It's a day-to-day process."

Since beginning his rehab program last week with 10 minutes of light tossing from 60 feet, Erickson has progressed to two sets of 25 throws from 120 feet. It was after that session yesterday that he briefly took the mound. Erickson has been most encouraged by a lack of swelling or inflammation after his sessions. Limited to 70 percent extension of the arm before surgery, the Orioles' No. 2 starter again enjoys pain-free full extension. Erickson also said he is lifting 60 percent of the weight he handled before surgery.

"I look at my elbow like a gas tank. You don't know how full it is or what kind of mileage you're going to get. You just don't want to light a match and blow it up," he said.

A weightlifter, Erickson has had to temper himself at times.

"I was at 70 percent before I had the surgery, so I have farther to come than somebody who was closer to 100 percent," he said. "You have to be realistic. I still have no idea what to expect."

Los Angeles orthopedic Dr. Lewis Yocum estimated Erickson would need six to eight weeks of rehabilitation before pitching again. Erickson's absence has forced the club to hold an audition for a temporary fifth starter between Calvin Maduro and nonroster right-hander Jose Mercedes.

Manager Mike Hargrove hinted earlier this week that Mercedes could make the rotation as a fourth starter based upon a solid spring in which he pitched 13 consecutive scoreless innings and has a 2.08 ERA. Maduro is out of options and could be sent to the bullpen, causing the club to break camp with 12 pitchers rather than Hargrove's preference for 11.

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