Erickson makes painstaking progress

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Pitcher continues rehab, hopes to return in '01

`hasn't been one setback'

March 12, 2001|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT MYERS, Fla. - Calling it "the last leg of his rehab," Orioles trainer Richie Bancells said pitcher Scott Erickson remains on schedule in his attempted return from ligament-transplant surgery.

Erickson has been doing long-toss exercises from 90 feet as part of his throwing program, with an eventual progression to 120. Once he's deemed to have gained significant strength in the elbow, he'll move up to mound distance before actually climbing one for the first time since his August surgery.

Some projections have Erickson rejoining the rotation before September. He hasn't appeared in a game since July 25 against the New York Yankees, when he allowed eight runs in four innings.

"It's an area where you have to be patient," said Bancells, who has Erickson's program mapped out on a calendar with anticipated dates for each step, including simulated games, which extends into July. "It takes time to strengthen it, especially with the repair he's had on his elbow."

Bancell's involvement in the process lessens once Erickson is sound enough to pitch from the mound.

"He gets handed over from me to the pitching coach [Mark Wiley]," Bancells said. "Depending on how he does at that point, it becomes what he and the pitching coach feel his effectiveness will be before they send him out on a rehab assignment and get him innings."

Erickson opened the season on the disabled list after having arthroscopic surgery to remove bone chips in his elbow. He made 16 starts, going 5-8 with a 7.87 ERA in 92 2/3 innings, before succumbing to pain that already had eliminated his bullpen sessions between outings.

"He's right on schedule. He hasn't missed a beat," Bancells said. "And that's Scott Erickson. He worked hard all winter to get the thing strong in the first place. There hasn't been one setback."

There were concerns within the organization after the surgery that Erickson, an innings monster who is used to going full throttle, could hurt the healing process by pushing himself too hard in the early stages. But that hasn't been the case. After the routine laid out for him by the training staff, he's satisfied with being on schedule rather than ahead of it.

Trombley gets work in

To the naked eye, reliever Mike Trombley has been one of the least-active pitchers in camp. Yesterday's appearance was only his second of the exhibition schedule.

"I've probably been used much more this year," he said.

That's because Trombley, 33, has gotten his innings outside the Grapefruit League. He's pitched in intrasquad games and at the minor-league camp in Sarasota, Fla. He also threw batting practice for about 12 minutes.

"This will be my eighth inning," he said before tossing a scoreless ninth yesterday against the Boston Red Sox. "I'm actually throwing a lot compared to years past, and I think it's good. We have so many young guys, they're trying to get them into as many spring training games as they can. It's better this way.

"I don't need to go out and face the Mets, where with other guys, you want to get a good look at them. I think they kind of know what I can do. But I'm sure as spring goes on, I'll pitch in more games as the numbers [in camp] go down."

Trombley went 4-5 with a 4.13 ERA and four saves in 75 appearances last season. He posted a 1.85 ERA in his past 23 games.

With Ryan Kohlmeier hardly entrenched as the closer this season, Trombley could be used in that role if needed. Or he could remain the primary right-handed setup man.

Yesterday's appearance moved him one ahead of left-hander Buddy Groom, who is scheduled to pitch tonight against the Florida Marlins in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Groom has been used in the same fashion as Trombley, with much of his work coming outside of exhibition games.

First cuts today

The Orioles can make their first cuts of the spring today. Even they have to 'fess up to that.

Manager Mike Hargrove hasn't indicated how many players will be sent out. He won't even confirm that cuts will be made, choosing to leave reporters with the equivalent of a "definite maybe."

"If I tell you, `Yeah, we're going to make cuts,' now all of a sudden the players hear about it," he said. "Tomorrow is the first day you can send out 40-man roster people. Are we going to cut tomorrow? I wouldn't leave the ballpark early if that's on your agenda. But you might go ahead and not miss anything."

Around the horn

THE NUMBER: 13 - Orioles who batted against Boston pitcher Rolando Arrojo in the first two innings, when they scored six runs on six hits.

INJURY UPDATE: Third baseman Cal Ripken could inform the club within the next day or two that he's ready to swing a bat for the first time this spring. The Orioles have been waiting for Ripken to make the determination that he's recovered enough from a fractured rib to begin more intense baseball-related activities. He'll be examined by a doctor before stepping into the cage.

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