Matos goes out, but for how long?

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Surgery could sideline center fielder all season

March 09, 2001|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Unable to get through a day without more injury intrigue, the Orioles face the possibility of outfielder Luis Matos missing the entire 2001 season after surgery was recommended to tighten his left shoulder.

Matos, who separated the shoulder while sliding feetfirst into third base during Tuesday's game against Montreal, will travel to Birmingham, Ala., for an arthroscopic procedure Tuesday. The surgery will be performed by Dr. James Andrews.

Syd Thrift, the club's vice president of baseball operations, said Matos could return within four to six weeks. Matos said it would be at least three months, but Thrift added, "It depends on who you ask."

The best-case scenario, whether it's Thrift's or Matos' definition, depends on whether Andrews can correct the problem by creating two small holes in the shoulder. If an alternative type of surgery is necessary, where a larger cut is made, the former 10th-round draft pick is expected to miss the season.

Matos, 22, underwent a magnetic resonance imaging on Wednesday while the Orioles were in Jupiter, Fla., to play the St. Louis Cardinals.

Matos missed nine games last season after colliding with Detroit first baseman Dean Palmer and bruising the same shoulder, which might have led to Tuesday's mishap. It's believed that the shoulder area remained "loose" and the impact from his slide caused it to pop out of the socket.

The Orioles considered the surgery for Matos after his August collision, but couldn't determine whether the shoulder had briefly become dislocated before popping into place. He ended last season as the club's regular center fielder.

If he can't play this season, Matos will be pushed back in his quest to remain in the majors. He's regarded as the top center-field prospect in the organization, but his timetable for holding the job with the Orioles could be affected.

"When you get operated on, you get a little sad, but I know it's better for me," he said. "I'm young, I'm only 22; so it's better to do it now and recuperate and keep playing."

McElroy's proper windup

Unable to correct a flaw in his delivery, Chuck McElroy had been prepared to pitch exclusively from the stretch this season, as he did as a reliever for 603 appearances in the major leagues. But that may not be necessary anymore.

McElroy, projected into the rotation after making his first two career starts in September, sought counseling from pitching coach Mark Wiley and broadcaster Mike Flanagan, who's in camp as an instructor. They noticed that McElroy was leaning back before going into his windup, causing the left-hander to lose his balance and fly open too soon.

The key adjustment was as simple as leaning forward, which enables McElroy to remain compact.

"I still have to get used to it," said McElroy, who will start today against the Los Angeles Dodgers. "But it's working out."

Johnson builds `evidence'

With Jay Spurgeon and John Parrish struggling in their early spring appearances, it's clear that Jason Johnson has strengthened his position as the favorite to fill one of the vacancies in the rotation.

Johnson went four scoreless innings last night against the New York Mets after blanking Los Angeles for three on Sunday. Not surprisingly, he's exuding more confidence than at any point during a miserable 2000 season.

"I heard him say 1,000 times, `I'm different now.' This is probably the first time I've seen evidence that he may be," manager Mike Hargrove said.

Et cetera

Four is the spot in the batting order where first baseman David Segui has been moved after being projected as the likely No. 5 hitter behind Albert Belle, who no longer can play because of a degenerative hip condition.

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