Reminded of his painful condition during a brief workout Wednesday night, outfielder Chris Richard will undergo shoulder surgery after the season. As of last night, the Orioles didn't know the exact cause of Richard's pain, but the possibility of a labrum tear means the 27-year-old left-handed hitter may not be able to throw again until spring training.
"I'm going to have surgery after the season," Richard said before last night's game. "It's not getting any better, so I think everyone knows what has to be done."
Richard attempted to throw for the first time in more than a week Wednesday. He felt no discomfort when he short-armed a few throws from 50 feet but said pain returned along with a grinding sensation in his left shoulder when he fully extended. The session lasted only several minutes before Richard shut himself down.
"I felt something moving around in there like before. It's not right," said Richard, who underwent surgery before the 1998 season to repair a torn rotator cuff and labrum suffered in the Dominican Winter League.
Richard began feeling discomfort during a Sept. 4 night game in Oakland. He continued to play in the outfield until Sept. 8 when his condition worsened, leaving him able to only lob the ball toward the infield two nights later in Seattle. He has since appeared only as a designated hitter.
A magnetic resonance imaging test administered earlier this month suggested the existence of several problems in his surgically repaired shoulder.
Richard, who continues to swing without pain, said he may be suffering from a combination of a torn ligament around the shoulder; a torn labrum, the gasket-like lining around the rim of the shoulder socket, or a separation of the humerus from the shoulder capsule.
Dr. Lewis Yocum, a Los Angeles-based orthopedic surgeon, will perform Richard's surgery during the week of Oct. 8-13. Labrum surgery typically means a lost season for a pitcher but would be less damaging to a position player.
Batista has hot bat
The stance remains among the most comical in baseball, but there's nothing funny about the way Tony Batista's been swinging the bat.
Before going 1-for-4 last night with a double and two RBIs, Batista had strung together seven consecutive multi-hit games. He doubled twice Wednesday, smacking a ball off the Green Monster and driving another into left-center field. The previous night, he hit a grand slam to left and tripled to right-center while going 3-for-5.
"I'm having a good time right now," said Batista, who's raised his average from .219 to .237. "Everything's going great. I'm hitting the ball and it's dropping."
Batista wasn't even in the lineup when the streak began Sept. 20. Pinch-hitting for Richard, he homered off Toronto reliever Pedro Borbon and singled the next inning. He's batting .531 (17-for-32) with nine runs scored during this stretch, which came as the Orioles were beginning to make contingency plans in case he didn't pan out as next year's starting third baseman.
They claimed Casey Blake off waivers from the Minnesota Twins and he responded with a home run in his first start, though it came as a first baseman. No matter what moves the Orioles make during the winter, Batista is assured of having a challenger to the position, though they'd prefer going with the same bat that cranked out 41 homers for Toronto last season.
For the past week, Batista has been swinging that same bat.
"Tony's a good player," manager Mike Hargrove said. "I think we're starting to see a glimpse of what he did last year for the Blue Jays. Hopefully it continues for the rest of this year and picks up from there in spring training next year."
Matos on top of game
Luis Matos batted atop the order again last night while making another start in center field, the position he seems intent on keeping as his own. He has hit safely in seven of his past 10 games, batting .250 (10-for-40) with five doubles, three homers and seven RBIs.
Asked if Matos is being considered for the job of leadoff man and center fielder next year, Hargrove said, "Yes, so far."
Matos doesn't look as overmatched as last season despite not returning to the majors until Aug. 24 after completing an injury rehab assignment. The shoulder surgery in spring training had kept Matos without a stolen base until last night - he's not supposed to dive into a base - but the club still projects him as a speed guy.
He's also shown more power this season. "He's obviously a lot bigger this year than last, and he's only 22 years old, so he's still got some growing and developing to do," Hargrove said.