Shoulder sidelines Richard

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Injury on Wednesday may keep outfielder out of 3-game series in Cleveland

April 06, 2001|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Orioles outfielder Chris Richard wasn't in the starting lineup last night against the Boston Red Sox after injuring his right shoulder while diving for a ball the previous night. A magnetic resonance imaging taken yesterday didn't reveal any structural damage, but he could miss the three-game series in Cleveland that begins tonight.

"Right now he's day-to-day," said manager Mike Hargrove.

Richard raced to the right-field line before making a futile attempt at a slicing liner from Boston's Chris Stynes in the eighth inning of the Red Sox's 3-0 victory. Stynes ended up with a double, prompting Hargrove to remove starter Sidney Ponson with one out. Richard stayed in the game until the end.

"It was hurting then, but I thought I could keep playing," he said. "It stiffened up this morning."

Richard had ice on his shoulder after Wednesday's game.

Brady Anderson started in right field last night, with Jeff Conine serving as the designated hitter in his first appearance this season. Conine batted fifth, the spot that had been occupied by Richard the first two games.

Richard, who is 0-for-6 with a walk, was the DH on Opening Day before moving to right field Wednesday. He recovered from a slow start this spring to bat .372 (29-for-78).

Change in routine

Chuck McElroy spent his final evening in the Orioles' bullpen during Wednesday's game against the Red Sox. He joined the other starters on the bench last night, no longer available to Hargrove until Sunday in Cleveland.

That's when McElroy officially becomes the club's fifth starter. That's when McElroy takes the ball at the beginning of a game for only the third time in his career.

The other two opportunities came in September, when McElroy won twice to gain consideration for this year's rotation. His 603 relief appearances would be his last for a while.

"It's been very different. After 10 years, it's definitely different," he said. "I guess I'm getting that starter's mentality."

McElroy beat out Willis Roberts for the last spot in the rotation despite numbers that paled in comparison. He allowed 11 earned runs and 20 hits in 15 1/3 innings, while Roberts permitted five earned runs and 14 hits in 20 innings. McElroy walked 11 and struck out seven, and opponents batted .323 against him. Roberts walked seven and struck out 23, and held opponents to a .197 average.

When another left-hander, John Bale, failed to make the club as a reliever and was assigned to Triple-A Rochester, McElroy stayed in the rotation and Roberts went to the bullpen, where he turned in a scoreless inning in Wednesday's loss.

At some point, Hargrove could reverse their roles and return to having three left-handers in the bullpen, with McElroy joining Buddy Groom and B.J. Ryan. McElroy has also been the subject of trade rumors all spring. None of that matters to him now.

"It could change everything," he said. "You say, `Well, what if you did this when you were 27, 28 years old?' No, I'm not looking at that. I'm looking at now. As long as I take care of myself, my arm and my body, who knows? I could end up going another three or four years as a starter. But I'm going to take it one day and one year at a time.

"I'm kind of getting excited about it. I'm not sleeping like I should because of the excitement. I'm opening up the season as a starter now. I'll go out there and make my pitches and trust Brook [Fordyce] and trust the guys behind me."

Forget it - move on

A full hour hadn't even passed since Boston's Hideo Nomo completed his second career no-hitter on Wednesday when the Orioles' Jerry Hairston attempted to put the game behind him. Why dwell on it and risk a nasty carry-over into last night?

"The one thing I've learned is it's a very humbling game, a very humbling game," Hairston said afterward. "We've just got to go out and get them tomorrow. It's over."

Said Hargrove: "There wasn't a whole lot we could have done [Wednesday] night. We had our chances and it didn't work. You understand that and realize that and go out the next night and try to make things work."

Hairston collected three hits and scored both Orioles runs on Opening Day, but said he actually felt better swinging the bat against Nomo. Only the results were worse.

"It's amazing," he said. "It was like I was in a bad nightmare. I felt so good every time I swung, and I was missing. He pitched a tremendous game, and you can't help but tip your hat to him."

Staying with 11 pitchers

As long as his starters continue to pitch deep into games, Hargrove will stay with 11 pitchers until reliever Alan Mills returns from the disabled list. When that happens is anybody's guess.

Hargrove doesn't know whether Mills will require more than 15 days to return to the Orioles' bullpen. He was limited to three exhibition games because of shoulder surgery in September, and stayed back at the minor-league complex in Sarasota, Fla., to build innings and arm strength while the Orioles headed north.

"We want to go [with 11] until Alan is ready to come back," Hargrove said. "Whether that's two weeks, three weeks or a month, I don't know."

Varitek agrees to extension

Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek agreed to a $14.9 million, three-year contract extension through 2004.

Varitek, earning $1.8 million this season, will get $3.5 million in 2002, $4.7 million in 2003 and $6.7 million in 2004, when he would have been eligible for free agency. He could earn an extra $300,000 in bonuses.

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