Rivera shoulder fixed after long windup

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Pitcher out for season as surgery follows delay

Bullinger, 35, gets tryout

March 08, 2001|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

JUPITER, Fla. - The saga of Luis Rivera has taken another abrupt turn, though he ended up in the expected location - far removed from the 2001 season.

The Orioles had announced that Rivera would receive a second magnetic resonance imaging on his right shoulder yesterday because the pitcher forgot to take the results with him to Birmingham, Ala., Monday. But they were shipped to orthopedic specialist Dr. James Andrews, who performed arthroscopic surgery on Tuesday to repair Rivera's torn glenoid labrum.

Rivera had been projected as part of Triple-A Rochester's rotation, with the possibility of being called up by the Orioles later in the season. He arrived in camp unable to throw with a fluid motion because of tightness in the shoulder, and an MRI taken on Feb. 23 revealed a slight tear in the labrum.

"I talked to Dr. Andrews personally and he was very pleased. He said the rotator cuff area was pristine," said Syd Thrift, the Orioles' vice president of baseball operations.

Rivera, 22, will begin rehabbing at the Orioles' minor-league camp in Sarasota, Fla., and they're hoping to get him ready for the fall instructional league.

"It would be a mistake to be in a hurry with him," Thrift said. "This is just a temporary setback. The way I look at it, we'll have a new pitcher next season."

Considered the jewel among the prospects obtained in late July, Rivera was limited to three starts at Rochester because of tendinitis in his shoulder. He made one appearance with the Orioles, going two-thirds of an inning in a Sept. 20 game against Oakland.

"Luis is a good-looking young pitcher. I don't know that he was ready to pitch in the big leagues," said manager Mike Hargrove. "This thing lingering on wasn't going to be productive, so getting him back healthy is the main thing right now. It's not a blow as far as him being counted on heavily in our plans."

The Orioles already have lost Pat Gorman, part of the four-player package obtained from the New York Mets, to ligament-transplant surgery. And Matt Riley could miss the entire season after having the same procedure in September. Veteran Scott Erickson, who also had the procedure, is expected to miss at least the first half of the season.

Name from the past

The Orioles brought in veteran pitcher Jim Bullinger for a tryout yesterday and could sign him to a minor-league contract.

Bullinger, 35, hasn't pitched since appearing in two games with Seattle in 1998. He underwent ligament-transplant surgery but said his health isn't an issue.

"The issue is being out of the game the last couple of years," he said. "I'm probably in the best shape of my life. I feel stronger than I've ever felt."

Bullinger is 34-41 with a 5.06 ERA and 11 saves in parts of seven major-league seasons. He spent five years with the Chicago Cubs, who brought him to the majors in 1992, and one with Montreal before a brief stay with the Mariners. He's made 89 starts among his 186 appearances. The Orioles were looking at him as a reliever.

The Orioles arranged a workout in February, a convenient arrangement because he lives in Sarasota, but weren't impressed with a fastball that was clocked in the mid-80s. "That's not good enough," Thrift said.

Bullinger threw off a bullpen mound yesterday while Thrift, Hargrove and pitching coach Mark Wiley stood nearby. His velocity seemed better, but he had trouble locating his off-speed stuff.

"He had a nice, easy delivery," Hargrove said. "It's a little tough to tell with a guy throwing on the side. He located his pitches pretty well. He threw some two-seamers and had good sink. We're looking at him."

"I thought it went pretty good," Bullinger said. "I don't know what's going to happen, but I'd sure like to know something soon. I just want to get in a camp with a team where I can throw to my maximum ability. And I feel in my heart that I can help this team win."

Quick hits

THE NUMBER: 0 - Undefeated teams in baseball after the Orioles' 9-8, 10-inning loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in Jupiter.

INJURY UPDATE: Outfielder Luis Matos had an MRI yesterday on his left shoulder, which he dislocated while sliding feet-first into third base during Tuesday's game against Montreal, and the club was awaiting the results. X-rays taken on Tuesday were negative, ruling out any bone damage. He's out indefinitely. ... Reliever Alan Mills threw batting practice again yesterday, the third time he's done so in six days. He's hoping to be ready for Opening Day after having arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder in September.

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