Broken bat hits Seattle pitcher in face

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Fielding Baines' grounder, Abbott breaks nose

Hargrove defends team

Orioles Notebook

May 26, 2000|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Seattle Mariners pitcher Paul Abbott was struck below his right eye by a broken portion of Harold Baines' bat in the fourth inning of last night's game at Camden Yards. Abbott laid on the mound for several minutes before being removed from the field on a sitting stretcher.

Abbott, making his fourth start after beginning the season in the bullpen, had bent down to field a grounder from Baines when he was struck by the severed end of the bat. The ball caromed off his left leg to first base, where John Olerud scooped it up for the out.

Concerned players from both teams circled Abbott, 32, who had given up a run in 3M-- innings. Cal Ripken, the next scheduled hitter, and Will Clark, who was moving to the on-deck circle, stood a few feet away.

Orioles trainers Richie Bancells and Brian Ebel rushed to Abbott's aid, while pitcher Mike Mussina, who was hit above his right eye by a line drive two years ago, stared from the dugout. Abbott was replaced by Frankie Rodriguez with the score tied, 1-1.

The side of Abbott's face was swollen, and the Mariners received a report that his nose was broken. He also suffered a small cut on the bridge. Abbott never lost consciousness, and an Orioles spokesman said the pitcher was alert while being transported to the University of Maryland Medical Center for X-rays and a CT scan.

"About the only good thing about tonight is Abbott is all right," Seattle manager Lou Piniella said after the 5-1 loss.

Abbott was allowed to accompany the team to Tampa Bay last night. Piniella was not sure when Abbott will make his next start.

"We were all concerned," Piniella said. "It's a scary thing."

Hargrove defends talent

As speculation mounts that the Orioles soon could begin making some trades to shake up a fourth- place club and rescue a season turned sour, manager Mike Hargrove said yesterday that he still believes his team can contend as presently constructed.

"I think we're a very competitive team the way the ballclub is constituted right now," he said. "I'm not saying we couldn't tweak here or there, get better here or there. All teams could do that, and we're certainly no different in that regard. But if our people do what their track record says they'll do, then we've got a good team."

The Orioles have pieced together three straight victories after losing 15 of 17 to fall a season- high eight games below .500 and fuel talk within the warehouse of changing the roster. The New York Yankees had expressed interest in left fielder B. J. Surhoff and center fielder Brady Anderson. But a high-ranking Yankees official said he felt there was "no chance" majority owner Peter Angelos would approve a trade to the Orioles' most bitter rival.

Consideration also has been given to moving Anderson to right field or making him the DH, as the club seeks ways to improve its outfield defense. But Hargrove said yesterday that he has no qualms about Anderson remaining in center field, where his mobility in the past week has been markedly better after a freakish spring training injury that caused numbness and weakness in his left foot and ankle.

Hargrove pointed to a catch Anderson made on Wednesday, when he raced back for a long drive and turned at the last instant before making the catch above his head with his back to the fence.

"Two weeks ago he doesn't make that play," Hargrove said.

"Brady can play all three outfield positions. Is center field his best position? I don't know. But I do know he plays it pretty well. ... I think if you're going to move Brady, you have to have someone in center who's better, and we don't have anyone."

Little breathing room

Before last night, six of the Orioles' past seven games had been decided by one run. The exception was Tuesday's 4-2 win over Seattle.

The narrow margins have made it more difficult for Hargrove to use struggling relievers like Mike Trombley, B. J. Ryan and Chuck McElroy. He'd rather not rush them back into a position where one pitch could decide the outcome.

"It's not just one or two guys who are struggling a little bit. It's three or four," Hargrove said. "When that happens, it's tough to find situations that allow these guys to work their way through it. A lot of their outings and a lot of their pitches are in pressure- packed situations. And they're not allowed the wiggle room or breathing space to try to work some of these problems out.

"In most situations, you can hide an outing here and an outing there to get somebody back on track. We haven't been allowed that luxury right now."

Grab a bat, pitcher

With their first interleague series just around the corner, Orioles pitchers have been preparing for life without a designated hitter by taking batting practice the last three days.

McElroy has been toting one of Baines' 32-ounce bats. "It looks like it's never been used. It's solid, almost scary," said McElroy, a career .231 hitter (9-for-39) with three doubles, one triple and four RBIs.

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