Groom may miss Tigers series after back stiffens again

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Status of lefty reliever to be decided tomorrow

Erickson shows progress

April 23, 2001|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Reliever Buddy Groom continues to receive treatment for lower-back pain and isn't certain if he'll be available for the Orioles' three-game series in Detroit that begins tomorrow.

Groom hasn't been used since Thursday at Camden Yards, when he tossed a scoreless inning against the Cleveland Indians. The same spasms that became an issue in spring training surfaced again before Friday's game against Tampa Bay, leaving manager Mike Hargrove short-handed in the bullpen for the entire series.

Seeking his own relief, the left-hander slept on the floor of his St. Petersburg hotel room the past two nights before flying to Detroit after yesterday's 10-8, 11-inning victory over the Devil Rays. He has also been wearing a portable electronic stimulus device during games and at the hotel, removing it only when attempting to rest.

"I thought I was doing a lot better yesterday, but I woke up and it stiffened again," he said. "I got up and felt that same shooting pain. I had hoped to play catch today, but I can't."

Groom's latest spasms apparently have been traced to improper back extension exercises he believed would prevent the pain from returning. He has been told not to use weights, and will concentrate instead on isometric exercises that keep the back flat without risk of hyperextending it.

"With weights you tend to get tired and bend back too far," he said. "The muscle just took over in my back and said, `That's enough.' "

Groom had attempted to play catch with pitcher Chuck McElroy before Friday's game but couldn't put any zip on the ball, even from a shorter distance. His usual throwing motion brought pain that he likened to "a knife in my back."

"If I could be out there pitching, I would be," he said. "I hate staying in here while they're out there, and being in the trainer's room."

Groom has every reason to detest another interruption. He hasn't allowed a run in seven appearances covering 5 1/3 innings. He has given up two hits, and still hasn't issued a walk since reporting to spring training. Groom also is trying to become the first pitcher to appear in 70 or more games in six consecutive seasons, so every missed opportunity threatens to deny him a milestone that's also being pursued by Colorado's Mike Myers.

He'll receive an extra day of rest with the Orioles being off today, and the club will reevaluate his condition and determine his status before tomorrow's game.

"Hopefully he'll be ready by the time we get to Detroit," Hargrove said. "The last time this happened in spring training, it was about a three-day deal. He ought to be fresh and ready to go whenever he comes back."

At least Hargrove found another left-hander for the bullpen. With the fifth starter not needed until Saturday, McElroy has joined the other relievers and most likely will remain with them.

Erickson progressing

Pitcher Scott Erickson, on the 60-day disabled list after having ligament-transplant surgery in his right elbow last August, joined the club yesterday and took part in pre-game stretching exercises.

Erickson continues to rehab at the minor-league facility in Sarasota, Fla. He'll remain there while the Orioles complete their three-city road trip with games in Detroit and Minnesota. Erickson remains a possibility to pitch again this season.

He's been throwing three times a week from 150 feet and continues to proceed without discomfort. "He's doing well," Hargrove said. "He's not ready yet, but he's doing well."

Paronto joins win list

The list of Orioles pitchers getting their first major-league wins this season has grown to four.

Chad Paronto became the latest yesterday with two perfect innings after closer Ryan Kohlmeier blew the save try by allowing three runs in the ninth. "That kind of buoyed everybody's confidence," Hargrove said.

Paronto, making his third appearance since being called up on Wednesday, joins Kohlmeier, Willis Roberts and John Bale. And the season's only 19 games old.

He also retired six straight in his debut, which came on the same night he joined the team, before allowing four runs in 1 1/3 innings the next day. "I have to come out and pitch good every time," he said. "Every other time's not going to cut it."

At least Paronto didn't have to worry about Chris Richard throwing the ball into the stands after the last out, as he did when Roberts and Bale won. Paronto ended the game with a strikeout, so catcher Brook Fordyce had the souvenir in his mitt.

Sorry 'bout that

The fan who caught David Segui's fly ball on Saturday, which led to a reversal of second base umpire Tim Tschida's home run call, used to root for the Orioles while growing up in Baltimore. He didn't exactly relish his role as a hero for the Devil Rays.

Dale Adams, 19, who lives in Tampa, reached with his glove to snatch the ball near the railing in left field. After talking with Devil Rays manager Hal McRae, the umpires determined that Adams interfered with the play and motioned Segui to second base, where he later scored.

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