Talk of injury puts Richard in hot water, not whirlpool

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Club disputes his account about pending surgery

Harris hopes for return

September 30, 2001|By Joe Strauss and Roch Kubatko | Joe Strauss and Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- In their latest installment of injury intrigue, the Orioles have admonished Chris Richard for disclosing that he will undergo surgery next week to repair a painful shoulder condition that has left him unable to throw for the past three weeks.

Manager Mike Hargrove insisted before and after yesterday's 7-2 win over the New York Yankees that no decision has been made whether Richard will require surgery and said the player spoke out of turn. "Chris is not having surgery. Not at this point. Could that happen down the line? It may be. But right now it's premature to say," said Hargrove, who discussed the matter with vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift yesterday.

Richard said last week that he would be seen by Anaheim Angels team doctor Lewis Yocum next week in California, at which time he said he would undergo an arthroscopic procedure to repair any of several problems, including a torn labrum, suggested by a recent magnetic resonance imaging.

Richard yesterday did not back away from his original statement except to say that the outcome he described was likely but not certain.

"I guess I should have said `probably,' " Richard said.

The club, which intends to have Richard examined by team orthopedist Dr. Michael Jacobs, said Yocum has not been contacted.

Thrift has ordered all organizational training and medical staff not to field media questions, even those seeking clarification of terms.

Hargrove confirmed Friday that first baseman David Segui will be examined in Baltimore Thursday for a torn "capsule" of his left knee but declined a request for more precise explanation from trainers Richie Bancells and Brian Ebel.

While Richard apparently short-circuited protocol in discussing his medical status, the Orioles have long adopted a less-is-more approach regarding disclosure of injuries. A news blackout regarding injuries served the Orioles in their attempts to trade pitcher Scott Erickson in July 2000 after being told four months earlier ligament replacement surgery was inevitable. They used semantics earlier this season after it was reported shortstop Mike Bordick would undergo shoulder surgery.

The Orioles denied that Sidney Ponson's diminished velocity was related to forearm stiffness in April. When Ponson was shut down after an Aug. 28 start with similar symptoms, he admitted pitching for some time with the condition.

Harris won't let season go

The ice pack and measured steps through the clubhouse suggest that Willie Harris won't play another game for the Orioles this season. So do the words coming from Hargrove, who seems determined to shut him down.

Harris isn't fighting it, but he's not convinced, either. A pulled groin muscle has kept him off the field since Sept. 21, and if the swings he took that night are his last until the Arizona Fall League starts up, he won't fuss. But he's still dealing with some disappointment over being in the trainer's room instead of on the field.

"It feels a lot better," he said. "I may be ready to go by the series at home, but there's no rush."

The pace has slowed for Harris, 23, since trying to go from first to third on a single by Jeff Conine.

"I heard a pop and felt a pop," he said. "I kept it stretched out during the game and it felt fine. I went home and woke up the next morning, and it was painful. I guess after the muscle relaxed it tightened up on me. I'll take it easy now and see what I can learn from the games and take it with me to Arizona. I'll be ready by then."

The lessons never extended to Triple-A Rochester. Harris remained a level below until the Orioles expanded their roster on Sept. 1. He batted .305 with 54 stolen bases and could win the Brooks Robinson Award given to the organization's top minor-league player.

"I'm pleased with the year I had, but I had a lot of help as far as coaches and hitting instructors, that type of thing," said Harris, who was 3-for-24 in nine games with the Orioles. "I struggled a little bit, but the month of August I stepped it up a notch. I'm real happy about the way I played this year, and getting called up was another great feeling. I just hate that I got hurt."

Johnson keeps chin up

Coming off a season that produced more demotions than victories, Jason Johnson can be satisfied with his 10 wins, which lead all Orioles pitchers. But with one start remaining, he has no chance of finishing above .500.

It seemed a foregone conclusion earlier this summer, but he hasn't won in his past eight starts. Johnson has lost six straight decisions, lowering his record to 10-12.

"It's frustrating but it happens," he said. "That's just the nature of the game. You can go out and throw a complete game, give up one run and lose 1-0. That's the way it goes."

Johnson still carries a respectable 4.01 ERA, but it shot up after allowing seven earned runs in Friday's loss to the Yankees. It hadn't been above 4.00 since April 26.

"Jason's pitched well enough to win more games," Hargrove said. "When Jason Johnson takes the mound I feel like we have a good chance to win. I couldn't say that last year."

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